Pride is the deadliest of all the seven deadly sins.
We seem to have forgotten this lately.
I came across a timely post from the Archdiocese of Washington, and, in light of current social trends, one paragraph defining pride, worth reading and re-reading, intrigued me:
Pride is the sinful refusal to recognize anyone or anything greater than us, to whom, or to which we owe reverence and obedience. Modern man has not only abandoned God, but even natural law. In Original Sin Adam said, “I will do what I want to do and I will decide if it is right or wrong.” Thus he refused submission to God. Modern Man extends this concept beyond God’s law, even to reality itself. In this attitude, there is no reality outside himself to which he must conform himself or to which [Man] woes any allegiance. In abandoning natural law, modern man increasing says that reality is what he says it is. Reality no longer matters, all that matters is what I think or feel. *
What's interesting is how the mainstream media portrays 'pride' as something healthy and favorable to people, when, as the quote above reveals, precisely the opposite is true. As June 2011 concluded, it found itself dedicated to a specific variety of 'pride.' I don’t feel I have to mention which variety explicity because, in essence, all pride is equally destructive no matter how flamboyant or celebratory we’ve become of different displays of hubris.
But isn’t there such a thing as healthy pride, you may ask? Such as in the face of an accomplishment or when one pays homage to their nation, ancestry or ethinicity?
In those cases, it’s not really pride (e.g. “I’m so proud of you, family member X …” or “We come from a long line of proud So-and-Sos…) at all. But since we must use language to express the combination of satisfaction, joy and gratitude for an earned success as well as the respect, reverence and humility experienced with ‘honoring one’s roots,' we tend to distill these concepts down to the current banal usage of the term ‘pride.'
If you look closely, however, in those cases there is a recognition or an acknowledgment of being blessed that does not self-aggrandize but which gives credit where credit is due: to the One who gives us our talents, history, nation and family.
Of course, it still remains possible to become disordinately proud when one succeeds, such as when one attributes all success and personal merit to oneself. There is also a way of overemphasizing the importance of ancestry, race and nationality, such as when one considers it their primary identity and starts to conform their entire lifestyle to it rather than to God's will for their lives.
In other words, the subjugation of God’s law as well as our obligation to observe it, to something as dramatically miniscule as ourselves and our personal desires is the essence of pride. Whether contemptuously driven to turn away from God (as in the case of Satan) or simply due to the pull of our fallen nature, the prideful person succumbs to the temptation to consider themselves as the ‘master’ of their own lives rather than acknowledge a higher power and Authority.
This is why when St. Thomas Aquinas writes about pride, he calls it the beginning of all sin after Sirach 10:15, Pride is the beginning of all sin. He explains why:
…pride regards sin as turning away from God, to Whose commandment man refuses to be subject, for which reason it is called the "beginning," because the beginning of evil consists in turning away from God...We must therefore say that pride, even as denoting a special sin, is the beginning of every sin. I-II q 84 a2 c.
In other words, pride is the disposition by which all evil, all 'turning away from God' (i.e sin) becomes possible if not probable. Pride, therefore, can rightly be called the deadliest of all the deadly sins. And so, when our culture as a whole does an about-face from the Truth, instead of admonishing the sin and educating the sinner as we should, we celebrate it and them. And why not? Since we’ve already made ourselves our own Gods, why shouldn’t we spend time honoring ourselves and then punish those who don’t do likewise? The Washington Archdiocese post further elaborates on what happens when we become entirely self-focused:
In severing his relationship with God, and even with reality itself, the human person can turn in almost entirely on himself and be unreachable. He becomes hardened in his self-enclosed thinking and will only admit data and people who conform to his stinking thinking. As time goes by, almost nothing can break through this wall of pride. Scripture says, For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools….(Rom 1:22-23).
I just want to repeat one line of this quote which really struck me: "[He] (the prideful person) will only admit data and people who conform to his stinking thinking." Intolerance, from this perspective, becomes the most immediate and natural offspring of pride. Today, however, we so often hear the term 'pride' and 'tolerance' mentioned in the same breath together that it's now a forgone conclusion that the two are somehow complementary. And yet this spurious claim of compatibility between the two, once properly examined, emerges as inherently fraudulent, as neither tolerance nor pride, by their very natures, can coexist together. Pride can only ever admit to ways of thinking that do not threaten or challenge it, and then persecute any that do.
The foolishness and heresy committed by the Ego who considers itself the source of all truth is rampant and robust in present times. Why? Because we’ve forgotten what pride actually is, and, as such, have become a prideful society. We now throw parades for pride and dedicate full months of the year to it. Imagine that, waving flags and marking our calendars for what amounts to both the root and vehicle of our own self destruction. And yet you don’t need to spend too much time trying to imagine it; I hear it gets great media coverage by all the major networks these days.