It was the wise old Sage St. Basil the Great that edified us to:
“Extirpate two thoughts within thyself: do not consider thyself worthy of anything great, and do not think that any other man is much lower than thou in worthiness. Learn humble mindedness beforehand, which the Lord commanded in word and showed forth indeed. Hence, do not expect obedience from others, but be ready for obedience thyself.”
Scripture teaches that God refuses to answer the proud (Job 35:12) and pride is an abomination to God (Proverbs 16:5, 18). God actively goes out of His way to “resist” the proud and give grace to the humble (James 4:6). Overestimated pride is like rot to the tree of life that ultimately leads to sure decay. Even the wise Solomon declares that there is only one thing worse than a fool: a person who is wise in his own eyes (Proverbs 26:12). Pride is simply the overestimation of our own self-importance at the expense of our true stature amongst man. It is when the “We” is solely defined by the “I” and the “Us” trampled upon in the pursuit of the “Me”. Now feeling “pride” at the accomplishment of a child or even an achievement like an earned degree is not sinning, it is when the sum of all things is defined by the attitude of “supero omnia” (me above everyone else).
Here follow some symptoms of pride:
Taking credit for the achievements of others:
It is amazing how many people come to the glean at the chalice of affirmed glory. I am still waiting for the man that despises a pat on the back and an ear full of affirmation. We see this often in our Churches where ministers boast with phrases like “and then the Holy Spirit came over me…” or even “so God said to me…”. Now there is nothing wrong with God imparting His presence as long as we remember He doesn’t do good in sharing His Glory (Isaiah 42:8). Even our Lord said we could do nothing without Him (John 15:5). Catherine of Genoa said “The one sole thing in myself in which I glory is that I see in myself nothing in which I can glory…”.
The insistence of our own right!
When our demands become our right our determination will be saturated with our own folly. A demanding person always seems to look out as a first priority…THEMSELVES!! St Paul of Tarsus reminds us that perfected love is not that caught up in itself and seeks the fortitude of others before the self (1 Cor.13:5). The Spanish Christian Teresa of Avila wrote “Never be obstinate, especially in things of no moment. Christ does not force our will, He only takes what we give Him. But He does not give Himself entirely until he sees that we yield ourselves entirely to Him…”.
Knowing I am better than you!!
Old gilded Mouth John Chrysostom was right when he said “Poor human reason when it trusts in itself substitutes the strangest absurdities for the highest divine concepts…” The Philosopher Rene Descartes eloquently coined an epitaph that described the summation of man that goes “cogito ergo sum” (I think therefore I am). In African Ethics the epitaph rather reads “I belong, therefore I am”. But in today’s day and age, it seems more like we say “I achieve more…therefore I am…” This is exactly the deception of pride when we feel so much superior to others (Phil.2:3). Barbara Dent writes “…We compare ourselves with others, to own a secret advantage. Comparisons in the spiritual life are always unwise and too often uncharitable also because only God knows anyone’s, secret heart. They are particularly odious when we make them ourselves in our favor and anthers disfavor.” We simply become unteachable… She adds:
Barbara Dent states: “As beginners in contemplation we have within us a secret self-satisfaction and vanity that makes us think that we can teach and criticize others…Our Pharisaism causes spiritual pride in our gifts and virtues, while at the same time we are anxious for praise and esteem. Touchy over-correction or criticism, we easily nurse resentment against our critics while we burn with the desire to justify ourselves. We engage in little drama to impress others, preferring our ecstasies and fervors to take place in public so others will notice and be impressed…”
“Sarcasm is a thinly veiled attempt to impress people by highlighting the faults of others in a pseudo- humorous way. It is always at the expense of another person and reveals the prejudice of our heart…”(Floyd McClung). Sarcasm is the insolence we talk with justifying a heart of pride.
A Judgmental and Critical attitude
Have you ever heard people that criticize EVERYTHING? It’s never the right time nor the right sort or even close to what they have imagined. John of the Cross said, “He who complains or murmurs is not perfect, nor is he even a good Christian.” We become most critical when we feel our own rights have been violated and our own expectancies were not met. Usually, the Church’s greatest critics are those who did not get it “their way”. We become bitter and unforgiving. We repeat to ourselves all the time “why does it always happen to me!”. We shake our fist at heaven and quickly forget the lovers’ creed. We say what we shouldn’t and speak of what we must not.
Wherever any given scenario does not measure up to our own expectancy of how we think it should be we become critically impatient. James the brother of Jesus edifies us to allow patience to have its perfect home in us (James 1:2-5). Sue Monk Kidd speaks of patience being the ability to “go the long way around”. Usually when things don’t go “my” way my heart becomes hard towards the need of others, even more, our ears become closed to the voice of God our Father.
Envy and Greed
What is your very first impulse when you hear of friends’ success, promotion or even a new car? It could be a painful stab to the heart that reveals our selfishness. Moreover, have you ever compared your life to someone else? Wished you had their education, achievements or even husband? All these things make us feel pretty sorry for ourselves. A deep sense of remorse at the good of others is a sure sign of Pride. Thomas Aquinas said “If pride is looking down at people, envy is to look up at the good of others with a deep sense of remorse”
Mark the Ascetic warns us when he says “Oh how insinuating and imperceptible is the passion of pleasing men: it possesses even the wise! For the effects of other sins are easily seen by those who obey them and so bring those they oppress to mourning and sorrow. But the effort to please men clothes itself in the words and appearance of Christianity, so that the men whom it deceives find it hard to detect its evil nature…” Whenever we reduce relationships to how they benefit only us we are classical abusers. Now have you ever tried to please someone to the detriment of your self? Have you ever refused to say no because you were to afraid to disappoint the other person? Have you ever overstepped boundaries to give more room to others? If you have said yes to any one of these…your pride is fueled by your desire to please.Have you ever heard someone saying “man…I am one humble guy?” Do not be fooled…humility was out of the back door long ago. Do not allow your own pride-filled ego to get in God’s way… Remember the words of the author of Hebrews “keep your eyes fixed on Jesus..” There is the remedy for pride… (Phil.2:5-11).
Rudolph P. Boshoff