“It was Pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.”~ St. Augustine
What are the Seven Deadly Sins?
The seven deadly sins, known as cardinal sins or capital vices, were unforgivable in the early Church. According to the Bible, scholars assure us that these seven deadly sins are an abomination to God but forgivable by God, but this doesn’t grant us permission to engage them for our worldly delight and behave like fools. (Proverbs 6:16-19 NRSV) Biblically speaking, God’s only sin He will not forgive is a complete rejection of God’s grace, which is outright rebellion against God—also known as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. (Mark 3:28-30, Matthew 12:31-32 CEB) The gift of God’s grace is not a “one and done” offer, but if rejected long enough, God will remove His grace, and turn you over to your defective mind, which means you have arrived at the point of no return. Please don’t allow yourself to end up there. (Romans 1:18-28)
16 There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that hurry to run to evil, 19 a lying witness who testifies falsely,
and one who sows discord in a family.
How Do We Make Sense of Pride, and Why Does Pride Lead the Procession of all Sins?
In Muhammad Ali’s heyday as the heavyweight champion in boxing, he had. Taken his seat on a 747, which was starting to taxi down the runway for take-off. The flight attendant walked by and noticed Ali did not have on his seatbelt and said, “Please fasten your seatbelt, sir.”
He looked up proudly and snapped, “Superman doesn’t need a seatbelt.”
Without hesitation, she stared at him and said, “Superman doesn’t need no plane.”
The Definition of Pride – Pride is inordinate esteem for one’s excellence. It is a habit or vice that disposes us to think more of ourselves than we ought. There is proper esteem we should have for ourselves, but it is rooted in an appreciation for the gifts we have received from God.¹.
Some define pride as looking down at others from a position of supposed superiority. John Maxwell suggests that there are “two kinds of pride, both good and bad. ‘Good pride’ represents our dignity and self-respect. ‘Bad pride’ is the deadly sin of superiority that reeks of conceit and arrogance.”
St. Augustine believed that pride was of the very essence of sin. As C.S. Lewis said, “[Pride] is the complete anti-God state of mind. It is “The Great Sin” that leads to all other sins because pride is the exaltation of Self above all authority, even God’s authority.”
Pride can be a fabrication or exaggeration of one’s ability or even one’s security. It can also be a fabrication or exaggeration of one’s righteousness or overall self-worth, e.g., “I am a savvy investor” (when your retirement plan is a lottery ticket), or “I never get lustful” (when you battle lust and watch porn regularly). Pride leads us to fabricate or exaggerate the truth about our lives. When pride lingers long enough, we start to believe our lies, or as our current culture would suggest, “we dine on our BS.”
Here is another example of pride, if you happen to think that you’re worth more to God than some other person, you’ve fallen victim to the sin of pride, e.g., racism. If you are in this mindset, you can be sure that pride has distorted your view of reality because the truth of the matter is, “there is no partiality with God.” We are all God’s kids, created in the image of God. Despite our skin color, our national heritage, where we went to high school, or the zip code we live in, we all bleed red when giving blood.
Of the seven deadly sins, theologians and philosophers reserve a special place for pride. Lust, envy, anger, greed, gluttony, and sloth are all bad, the sages say, but pride is the deadliest of all, the root of all evil, and the beginning of sin. But then there’s parental pride, pride in one’s work, pride for your school or your city or your country. Of all the deadly sins, writes Michael Eric Dyson, pride is most likely to stir debate about whether it’s a sin at all.²
He that is down needs fear, no fall,
He that is low, no pride;
He that is humble ever shall
Have God to be his guide. ~ John Bunyan
When Does Good Pride Become Bad?
In St. Louis, MO, we take pride in the St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Blues, both champions in their respected sport. We take pride in the Arch, The Hill, Ted Drews, and the Mighty Mississippi. There is nothing wrong with having pride in your city, sports teams, family name, ethnicity, music, and film genre. It’s when we start to look at others as “less than,” develop an “us vs. them” mentality and even worse, “dehumanize” others altogether that our pride goes from good to bad.
Well-meaning parents, teachers, mentors, and coaches have taught us to “believe in ourselves.” The challenge many of us have as children, myself included, is that we needed to be treated specially by everyone to feel normal, and at the same time, wanted nothing more than for everyone to leave us the heck alone. This sort of battle takes place between the ears (the mind). Because of the push for individualism, be all you can be, and look out for number one mentality, we sink to the depths of extreme self-centeredness and become sandwiched between pride and fear. Fear is the lead agitator of all of our sins, and pride leads the procession.
What About False Pride?
False pride is an exaggeratedly high or pretentious opinion of oneself, abilities, or circumstances not based on actual achievement or success. When dominated by false pride, fear is a constant companion. An old friend once shared that 299 people could tell him how great he was, but if one person did not, he would focus on that one person and forget about the other 299. Every one of us would like to be thought well of, but the truth is we don’t have to be dependent on what others think of us any longer; wow, what liberation.
Some suggest pride and vanity are synonymous, but there are differences between the two. Pride is an excessive belief in one’s abilities that interferes with the individual’s recognition of the grace of God. It’s called the sin from which all others arise. I would argue that a person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us. This intense spiritual warfare takes place in our minds and is exhausting. Can I get a witness? Thinking primarily of myself and what others think of me at the same time is a paralyzing combination. What you think of me has the potential to paralyze me at any given time; all I have to do is leave the door open for the enemy to come sneaking in and then lookout.
Why Does God Oppose the Proud and Show Favor to the Humble?
The sin of pride is such a dangerous enemy simply because it pits you against God. The enemy loves to suggest that God is the true enemy to be feared! Yet, in your pride, you will blame someone else for your faults and take credit for the successes; if you fail to own the pride in your heart, your life will continue to be driven by fear and your perception twisted by illusions and delusions. You can see that pride can blind us to the reality of our situation. You also know that pride can lead us into further separation and disobedience to God.
There is a story told about a clever salesman who closed hundreds of sales with this line: “Let me show you something several of your neighbors said you couldn’t afford.” Our culture feeds on our twisted perception of ourselves and our obsession to be like other people at any cost. Pride is why people consistently live outside their means and live paycheck to paycheck. Our culture refers to this mindset as “keeping up with the Joneses.”
Satan’s enmity against God began with “I.” And so it is with us. If you are preoccupied with yourself, you are suffering from the sin of pride. Pride must obscure the truth simply because the truth is often very humbling, something contrary to the sin of pride. You will probably do more damage to your spiritual life than anyone else around you because of eating crap sandwiches. “What is the crap sandwich, you ask? Well, pride is one piece of bread, and fear is the other. Do you know what the worst part of the crap sandwich is? You’re the one eating it!”~ Lewis Trotter.
With pride, the focus is always upon yourself and your glory. That’s a preoccupation with SELF. That’s pride. And if this is the case for you, not only are you already suffering from pride, you’re setting yourself up to be consumed by it! The Apostle Paul wasn’t joking when he said, “Knowledge makes people arrogant, but love builds people up”(1 Corinthians 8:1). And anyone who has ever been there will tell you, knowledge for the wrong reasons (i.e., personal glory) will lead to a proud heart and enmity against God.
What is the Solution and Alternative to Pride?
“Our lack of forgiveness makes us hate, and our lack of compassion makes us hard-hearted. Pride in our hearts makes us resentful and keeps our memory in a constant whirlwind of passion and self-pity.”~ Mother Angelica
So what is the remedy for our pride? It’s straightforward to say that we should seek to be humble, but even humility is something we can become proud of and trip us up. Martin Luther says that, while still a monk, he was constantly striving to be humble. He wore hair shirts, and fasted, and slept on the cold stone floor. And he said, “I finally achieved humility, and I was proud of it!” Even the pursuit of humility can become a vain pursuit.³
I would argue that the only defense against pride is love. If one is truly humble, then love is the result. If you love God and others as yourself, you won’t break any of the commandments, you won’t oppress and marginalize others, and you won’t allow evil to cause you to dehumanize the suffering.
C.S. Lewis makes a great observation. He said that as long as you are looking down at others, you cannot know God. Because “as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”
You must recognize that true humility is not merely the absence of pride; it is the presence of love. Love is the remedy for pride because love never looks down; love only ever looks up. “Love,” says St. Paul, “does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own.”(1 Cor. 13:4, 5)
God despises the sin of pride, mainly because it’s contrary to His purposes for us. He wants us to live by His example and to serve each other in love.
Our place of birth, natural skills, talents, and treasures are all gifts from God, never to be taken for granted or used to rule, judge, or demoralize others. The purpose of these gifts is to love and serve others. God revealed His true character through the incarnation of Jesus, the cross, and resurrection. God revealed that His love and purpose are grounded in righteousness, justice, and peace. Jesus demonstrated what love and service look like for the entire world, so we are without excuse. (Matthew 20:25-28; cf. Mark 10:42-45)
How Do We Fight Back Against the Sin of Pride?
We MUST recognize that we have a problem. This exercise turns out to be the most challenging part because of our twisted perception. Pride and fear are liars, as Zach Williams so wonderfully writes in his lyrics for his smash it “Fear is a Liar.”
Next, we MUST be committed to the process of transformation. God will move the mountains of pride for us but asks us to bring along a shovel. It’s imperative to confess our shortcomings daily, preferably with another human being, either by way of a nightly review, journaling, or phone call. The minute we fail to confess our pride, we fall under its power and spell.
Lastly, We MUST ask our spiritual siblings to pray with us and for us. Bold prayer, confession, repentance, and reconciliation are the shovel (mustard seeds) that we are responsible for bringing to the job site to help move the Mountain of Pride. Rest assured God, will take care of the rest.
Pride is rooted in SELF, and SELF manifests itself in many different forms, but primarily in a (better than vs. less than) comparison of ourselves and others. Pride is from the enemy; it’s the lower power, not the Higher Power at work in our lives, doing everything it can to separate us from God and our fellows. We overcome pride by bold prayer, confession, repentance, reconciliation, accountability, and the grace of God. Our fundamental purpose is to live a life grounded in love and service. When we genuinely love God and love others as ourselves, not only do we help change the world, but we send pride to death row. Pride will never give up, and the appeal process lasts a lifetime, but with the power of the Holy Spirit, pride will never fully regain its hold on our life. Somebody, please say, “AMEN!”
God of mercy, forgive me for attempting to elevate myself above You, the laws of the universe, science, and the land. Pride and fear are persistent pests in my life, please remove them from me. You are my Higher Power and the Highest of all Powers, let me never forget my rightful place in life. God, Your will is for me to humble myself to Your design for living, which means I must remain obedient to Your ways and not my own. The fruits of humility are love, may there always be a healthy harvest of love shared with everyone I encounter in this life and the hereafter. In Your Spirit and Name, I pray these things. May Your will not mine always materialize, now and forever. Amen.