Pride

Fr Antoni Tatara

The sin of pride, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and to the tradition originating from Saint John Cassian (d. ca. 435), confirmed by the papal authority of Saint Gregory the Great (d. in 604), is mentioned as the first sin in the catalogue of capital sins (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1866). The popular definition of pride is: thinking a lot of oneself. And its common synonyms are: superiority, haughtiness, conceit and vanity.

Sources

We can succinctly say that the source of pride is man himself and his uncontrolled ambition to be the equal of God, and the spiritual father of pride is Satan (cf. Genesis 3:1-24; 1:1-9). A proud man is the one who forgets about his imperfect and sinful nature, which needs the reviving presence of the Creator. A proud man regards himself as an ideal and absolutely good creature. Consequently, he only trusts himself and regards his capacities and achievements as certain absolutely perfect thing. Such a man does not take other people's opinions into account, he does not value them but he treats them with contempt. Thus pride can be seen as certain attitude that is characterised by excessive trust in one's worth and potential. A proud man thinks highly of himself, which usually leads to superiority, sometimes connected with aggression. Since pride destroys relationships and breaks man's bonds with God.
The Sacred Scripture often condemns this big sin, which directly opposes God (see e.g. Sirach 10:7-13; 1 Corinthians 4:6; 8:1 or Luke 1:51). And the teaching of the Church states that 'hatred of God comes from pride. It is contrary to love of God, whose goodness it denies, and whom it presumes to curse as the one who forbids sins and inflicts punishments' (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2094).
A proud man does not know how to accept gifts from other people. And he does not know how to ask others. His falsely understood pride does not allow him to do that. He can only give things to people in order to show his superiority and his place in the social hierarchy. His 'generosity' lets him feel superior to others, and he even thinks as if he were like God. One can dare to say that pride appears as the source of other sins. It alienates man from his environment and it alienates him from God. It is also the foundation of evil behaviour because it is self-love that is wrongly understood. Pride leads directly to vanity, making people satisfied with themselves and evoking their desires to be appreciated by others. In other words, our pride achieves imposing heights and our egoism does not let us create an objective vision of reality.

Symptoms

In the contemporary world pride is manifested in apparently innocent aspects of our daily life. Currently, those who succeed are valued. Those who cannot follow them are sometimes socially marginalized. First of all, it concerns the elderly, the sick, the poor and the disabled.
Unfortunately, the desire to succeed very frequently becomes an aim in itself. And excessive ambition leads to rat race. One can see this in big cities where people, especially the young ones, fight for gainful posts, destroy competition using all means, and one can see that in small towns as well. Undoubtedly, promotion of success in the media, which continuously dazzle us with advertisements, favour this situation. Scientific-technological achievements and high technological progress in our daily life lead to a false conclusion that man is self-sufficient. Thus we have the temptation to decide about the beginning and the end of our life (e.g. abortion and euthanasia). Homo sapiens wants to be an absolute master of himself and the whole universe. Technological achievements make man proud and lead him astray into the trap of genetic engineering, which can produce human hybrids. Coming back to the visible symptoms of pride it is worth illustrating the temptation of superiority by the example of the guarded apartments, which are so popular these days. They spring up like mushrooms. And those who live in them are excessively envious of their social status, manifesting their identity by dozens of cameras monitoring their apartments or by high walls that separate them from the so-called mediocrity. Naturally, not all people living in those places are egoists and egocentrics. But any isolation favours the attitudes that are born from pride.

Consequences

Vanity is the commonly perceivable consequence of pride (they are very often synonymous). It is worth recalling the final scene of the film 'The Devil's Advocate', with Al Pacino playing the main character, in which Satan says the memorable words, 'Vanity is my favourite sin'. What has been said exhausts the subject. A proud man seems to be empty and far from reality. He has fallen prey of evil. Fashion trends are connected with this subject. Fashion shows are not without reason called vanity fairs. Many people are ashamed to wear unfashionable clothes in public.
It is easy to go from vanity to narcissism. An egocentric that falls into narcissism falls in love with himself. He is completely convinced that in the world there is nobody so beautiful and wonderful as he is. Autoeroticism often accompanies this 'love'.
Pride changes into snobbism. This unhealthy attitude is manifested by people who, at all costs, want to show their knowledge on some chosen topic. They often know very little on the topic, but wanting to be at the top and be 'cool' they reveal their stupidity at every step. Snobs do not even see that they make fools of themselves because their own love and self-esteem, falsely understood, do not let them do so. Special shops are opened for such people. Since snobs want to be connected with some trademark or make.
Another thing related to this topic is excessive care for one's image, i.e. appearance. I do not only mean fashionable clothes but also being seen with concrete people (e.g. celebrities). The thing is also to visit proper places (e.g. certain places of entertainment). Moreover, a man whose appearance is very important to him loses his sense of reality because his life becomes a performance in which he plays the role of his life.

Humility is the remedy for pride

A human being that is mentally and emotionally matured can look at himself as if from outside. Thanks to this distance he is able to analyse his deeds and reach an objective evaluation of his thinking and conduct. He can also be critical of himself and confess his mistakes. And his greatness results from that. Since it comes from the feature that is often forgotten or wrongly understood today, I mean humility. It can be defined as the ability to look at oneself in truth. The truth refers both to the natural order and to the realities revealed by personal God in whom we believe. A believer, being aware that his existence passes and vanishes, can peacefully look to the future since personal Love awaits him, not only at the end of this life. This Love was revealed in the words and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth. Throughout his earthly mission, which ended with his glorious return to Heavenly Father, he smoothed the way for us to eternity where we will be seeing God face to face (see 1 Corinthians 13:12).
A Christian knows that where God is in control all things are in order. That's why he can humbly live his life, remembering the words of the Apostle to the Nations, 'it is for you, so full of your own importance, to go taking sides for one man against another. In any case, has anybody given you some special right? What do you have that was not given to you?' (1 Corinthians 4:6ff), which can become the motto of our existence.

"Niedziela" 12/2007

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Lidia Dudkiewicz • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl