Who Me, Proud?

All human beings come into the world with a few pieces of standard equipment. There’s the built-in fan club, the professional spin-doctor, and the grievance counselor who specializes in taking our side. Should any of this equipment fail and a weakness or two be accidentally revealed, we have an uncanny ability to bury that fault beneath a glittering pile of exaggeration. Insults are automatically sent into our “calculate revenge” circuitry from which few escape unscathed. Where does this fabulous equipment come from?

Adam and Eve.

It’s called pride, the spawn of original sin and the unequivocal bane of mankind.

But few of us want to admit it. In fact, pride is the one sin most of us never see in ourselves even though we can spot it in someone else in less time than it takes to ask, “who me, proud?”

“Among all the creatures in which we take pleasure and toward which our nature seems to be attracted the most, self undoubtedly holds first place,” writes Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene. “There is no one, no matter how limited in talents and good qualities who does not love his own excellence and who does not try, in one way or another, to make it shine forth to himself and others.”

My! How the truth hurts.

But face it we must if we have any chance at conquering this powerful vice. This is because pride has a peculiarly blinding effect on us. We see it in everyone but ourselves. By the time we reach adulthood, most of us have developed an arsenal of self-deceptive practices such as those described above.

“Other vices are easily recognized but pride masquerades in many different costumes, even behaving like a virtue and the appearance of virtue,” explains Father Cajetan Mary da Bergamo in his classic work, Humility of Heart. “This is a great danger because we often cooperate so as not to recognize this vice . . . in order to deceive ourselves into believing that pride is not pride . . .”

For instance, we have a bad habit of putting ourselves down in public, or speaking ill of ourselves, not because we really believe it, but because we either want others to contradict us or to think we’re humble.

In order to avoid falling into the trap of this delusion, Father Cajetan advises us to “accustom yourself not to speak either ill or well of yourself because it is easy for pride to inspire your words in either case.”

Another clever little habit of ours is to look around at this wicked world and think, “at least I’m not as bad as they are!”

Father Cajetan once again offers some sobering advice. “It was this way with the Pharisee who praised himself in the Temple. It is not with worldly people that we ought to compare ourselves, but with Jesus Christ.”

We’re also very quick to assume that we’ve acquired some virtue, but pride can hide even here.

“Our chastity maybe the result of a want of opportunity,” Father Cajetan suggests. “Our kindness may be for the want of flattery; our generosity from a hidden need to be noticed and praised.”

According to the book, The Seven Capital Sins, we also need to be on guard against certain kinds of pride.

For example, the pride of superiority makes us domineering people who want to impose themselves on others. This kind of pride can make a person stubborn and unyielding, especially to those in authority.

The pride of intellect is most commonly known as conceit. It makes us blind to our own defects and attributes all of our good qualities, success or fortune to ourselves rather than to God.

The pride of ambition is very common. It provokes us to seek after high positions and honors even when we don’t deserve them. If left unchecked, this kind of pride will make us become ostentatious and showy, particularly in regard to our looks or material possessions.

The pride of spiritual vanity is what makes us imagine ourselves to be more perfect than we are, and to make excuses or diminish the gravity of our own faults.

The only way to get a handle on where we stand in regard to pride is to seek genuine self-knowledge, which is difficult because most of us would rather look at everyone else’s fault than look in the mirror and confront our own.

But confront we must. In fact, the pain and sorrow this confrontation can inspire may actually help us to overcome our pride.

“The supreme manifestation of God’s infinite goodness lies in the fact that the sorrow and shame these failings cause us, cure us of them,” Father J. P. de Caussade writes in Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence.

However, this only happens if the shame we feel does not become vexation.

“Sorrow born of self-love is full of perturbation and bitterness; far from healing our soul’s wounds it serves only to pour poison into them,” Father writes.

Of course we will feel badly at first, which is only natural, but instead of tormenting and berating ourselves over our pride, he suggests that we make an offering of the sorrow we feel to God.

“Let patience be your one weapon; after a fall pick yourself up as speedily as possible, lamenting the tumble only with meek and tranquil humility. God wills it thus. Moreover, by such unwearied patience, you render Him more glory and yourself make more progress than you could ever do by the most violent effort.”

The spiritual masters also suggest that we get into the habit of making an examination of conscience every day. This shouldn’t be an hours-long search-and-destroy mission, however. Just a few minutes of focus on one or two major faults of the day is enough.

And if we should somehow manage a day when we did absolutely nothing wrong, perhaps we can take some advice from St. Augustine who said that on those days, he confessed all the sins he would have committed if not for God’s grace.

Another suggestion is to change the way we confess our sins. For example, instead of confessing that we gossiped, get to the root of that sin – pride. Tell the confessor why you felt compelled to talk about this person behind their back. “I spoke against my neighbor because they spoke ill of me and I wanted to get back at them.” Or “I spoke about them because I can’t stand the idea of anyone thinking she’s better than me.”

Perhaps we think we spoke about this person for a good reason, such as asking for prayer, but it’s all a smokescreen put up by our underlying pride. We can ask for prayer without hanging out our neighbor’s laundry.

Last, we must come to the realization that if we ever want to be healed of the wound of pride, we’re going to have to swallow our medicine and do what the Little Flower once recommended: “Calmly accept the humiliation of being imperfect.”

© All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly®/Women of Grace®  http://www.womenofgrace.com




Comments are closed.