[In this series of 14 articles, I hope to look into the 7 grievous sins, and 7 capital virtues. Since every sin has a virtue to combat it, one will follow the other. (Hopefully, this will keep the writer from falling too far into a state of self-dejection and deepening acedia.)]
Dear brothers and sisters, pray for me, a sinner. Today, my sin is Pride.
Here’s a bit of history:
Pride, as listed in the seven grievous sins, is the product of the amalgamation of the previous list by the monk Avagarius (4th century AD), derived from Hubris, and Boasting. Thank you, Saint Gregory! These days we see pride in two forms, and for our purpose here, we will focus more on the spiritual aspect, that being of inwardly directed emotion, inflated sense of self, and outward expression.
Today it is not at all uncommon to see pride all around us, hanging on walls, flashing from the screen, dripping down off of people’s very flesh. It’s the prime “virtue” promoted by the secular society we live in. “Let your freak flag fly”. Every media outlet tells us this. Gay and proud! Gun owner, and proud! Proud to be an American! We are told to be proud of our looks (and ashamed if they are not to a prideful standard), to show it with our accumulated material goods. Nice car, nice clothes, nice hair, etc. Who among us doesn’t look in the mirror every day to assess our selves, and groom and clothe accordingly? Then again, where do we draw the line?
Pride, as some may know, is usually the source of all other sin. It is the voice of the enemy telling us that not only do all these things matter, but are of the utmost importance. We develop a high self-esteem, we think we are so great, and it begins. “Pride comes before the fall”. Just ask Satan. He was the first. And he wants us to follow him. So, with our inflated, sometimes bloated, ego, we commence to lust for things, we get greedy, possessive, and defensive to a fault. We begin to feel that we are above reproach, and become angry with any one who defies our thinking. Through it all, we boast, and boast, and boast. We are so this, that, or the other. Pride has become the first step to spiritual death.
“Wherever arrogance enters, there also is dishonor, but the mouth of the humble meditates on wisdom.” – Proverbs 11:2
When we fall victim to pride, we stop caring. The opinions and views of others become more annoying, and in a rage we lash out. We become bigots, racists, elitists. We ignore Gods wisdom, we pay no attention at all. We forget who we really are. Not to say that all of us are doomed to fall to the lowest depths of this sin, but we all have our moments. For example, when in the choir at church, or when I’m reading the Hours, more often than not, I have to stop and realign myself. I begin singing too loud, boom too much. Puffing my feathers, as it where. “I’m a trained singer, by golly, and you need to know it.” No, no you don’t. In those moments, I have to hang my head, and start again. Lower my voice, dial back the bravado. I cross myself, and ask God for another shot. No joke, this happens EVERY SUNDAY. I am beginning to see why so many priests have a slight bow to their posture.
In Dante’s Inferno, penitents of pride walk around with stone slabs on their backs to keep their heads bowed. So, what’s our slab? Assuming we are, in fact, penitent for this sin, how do we combat it in our daily lives, how does it SHOW? As we all know (I hope!) the cure for sin is a triple-decker sandwich of prayer, fasting, and good works. Yet, there in is a virtue we can practice, a discipline, a rule we can live by to destroy our pride, and return to God…