Skip to content

Some Fundamentals about Pride

Something for Sunday morning.

Every person is born with pride. It is ingrained in the soul due to original sin. It was Adam's sin. C.S. Lewis described it as the “Great Sin” and said “the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. . . Pride leads to every other vice.” Mere Christianity.

Though born with pride, the Christian struggles against it. In the struggle, he enlists the only characteristic that can overcome pride–humility. “He who has sunk to the twelfth step of pride must climb the first step of humility.” Bernard of Clairvaux, On Humility and Pride. The struggle for humility is the crux of Christianity as exemplified in the crucifixion–the greatest of all men, God incarnate, humbled himself to be spit upon, mocked, tortured, and killed.

Pride offers the first example of the Christian's difficult and complex existence. He struggles against pride, but the successful struggle could result in more pride–as he conquers, he has more to be proud about. “Demons . . . stand quietly before our soul and praise us for the fact that in every respect we are living as God would wish.” John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent. So he must struggle against pride, but cannot take satisfaction in the successful struggle like most men take satisfaction as they successfully struggle against, say, a bad habit. He must enter and continue the battle with a detachment that cuts against the grain of self-accomplishment that lures most men to undertake difficult tasks.

In his Confessions of a Twentieth-Century Pilgrim, Malcolm Muggeridge provides excellent examples of the mental battles waged by a wouldbe devout Christian. In one example, he recounts the stumbling blocks that await the person who wants to be humble. He discusses how, during his life, he would tell himself that he would stifle his ego, take up Christ's cross, and follow God–but then, suddenly pride, the antithesis of such a life, would rear its head:

"Yes, that is precisely what he wants - not just to contemplate the possibility of handing over his life to Christ, but doing it then and there, unconditionally, and for ever. . . turning aside for ever from fleshly and egotistic pursuits; concentrating his attention on the needs of others rather than on his own appetites, on love and his soul rather than on power and his will . . . As he turns over in his mind all its different aspects and possibilities his ever-active ego moves in, and he sees himself as a monk in his habit, a Franciscan preferably, sought after by lost souls everywhere, a saint-to-be. Or as an evangelist addressing great gatherings of people who hang on his words. . . .".