The Root of Sinfulness: Pride

Pride. It’s something we come across almost every day of our lives. “Take pride in America!” “Hays High Indian Pride!” “Tiger Pride!” You get the idea. We are told to take pride in things. We take pride in our hard work. We take pride in our children. We take pride in our churches, schools or communities. Pride is all around us – and in many cases it’s celebrated as the appropriate response. Yet pride is listed first in most lists of the Seven Deadly Sins, and being humble – the opposite virtue of pride – is continually held up as the Christian standard throughout Scripture. So is having pride in our school really a sin?

The answer to that question is difficult at best. Being proud of an accomplishment, either collectively or individually is a good thing. We should feel good when something we do goes well. It’s a cause for celebration. Yet biblically speaking, those times of celebration must also include a recognition of the fact that God has allowed the blessing to take place, or that God has given you the talent to complete the task at hand.

That last statement rubs some people the wrong way. They will argue that they have worked hard to get where they are at and that God had nothing to do with it. That’s the sin of pride creeping in. God has created each one of us with certain talents, abilities and gifts. To ignore that fact or to take all of the credit when a job is completed is to cut God out of the picture. Certainly your hard work and dedication are commendable and essential to the win, but ultimately it is God who allows us and blesses us to succeed.

Pride is an excessive belief in one’s own abilities that interferes with the individual’s recognition of the grace of God. It is putting someone or something ahead of God’s rightful place at the head of your life. Augustine said it is “the love of one’s own excellence.”

In many ways, pride is the starting point of all of the other sins; it is the sin from which all others arise. We feel that our way is better than God’s, therefore we go against God’s directives. Medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas said, “inordinate self-love is the cause of every sin … the root of pride is found to consist in man not being, in some way, subject to God and His rule.” When we follow our own path as opposed to the path God has laid out, we are usurping God’s rightful place as Lord of our lives. That is pride.

Pride is a universal sin that affects everyone in some way. Counting the cost of pride, President Thomas Jefferson said that, “Pride costs more than hunger, thirst and cold.”

Thomas Merton, a 20th century American author said, “Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.”

Josh Billings, an American comedian from the 19th century, said, “One of the best temporary cures for pride and affectation is seasickness; a man who wants to vomit never puts on airs.”

When we see pride rear its ugly head in our lives, our first response needs to be repentance. We need to change our behaviors and our attitude. One quick way to do that is to start recognizing what we have been given by the Lord, and how blessed we actually are. Then turn our moment of pride into a time of thanks for the Lord. A grateful person is not a prideful person. “A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves,” said Henry Ward Beecher, an American pastor.

If we combat arrogance and pride with humility and gratefulness, we will be well on our way to eliminating the sin of pride.

This article originally was published in ONE Magazine’s October 2015 edition:

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