Walking the Wrong Path: Pride
Pride is one of the root sins. To some extent, we all suffer from pride. It seeps into our personal identity and manifests itself every time that we try to prove ourselves to others or even to ourselves, without having our identity rooted firmly in God. Each one of the root sins is an alternative to God. It is better to be rooted in him. As with all of the root sins, there is a strong, incorrect attachment. Pride brings in as well the concept of working to establish our self-worth. And, we believe the lie of the Devil, falling into the same problem caused by the Fall of our First Parents.
Attachment to the idea of my superiority
We all have ways that we consider ourselves better than others. Often, this comes from measuring others according to our own strengths. If I am good at baseball, I can measure those around me according to their prowess at the sport. If I am a good student, I might judge others according to grades, even though they excel in another area. This is all an effort to soothe our own conscience and convince ourselves of our worth. It is, however, a rather poor substitute for true self-confidence. Pride always masks a deep insecurity.
We tend to be attached to the idea of our own superiority. It is one of our comforts when we feel threatened or vulnerable. “Attachment” in this sense is unhealthy. We put our confidence and hope in something that ultimately cannot deliver the satisfaction we are seeking.
Justification through work
Pride leads to a performance-based evaluation of ourselves. We live in a world that is fascinated with results. Results are obviously important, but we have to be careful about not tying our self-worth to it. We are valuable because we are created and redeemed, not because of our output.
Performance-based self-worth seems linked to a Calvinistic view of spirituality. For Calvin, work was an expression of being saved or justified. As Catholics, we know that our value comes from being saved and is a grace. This led to the Protestant work ethic that is such a large element in the American psyche.
Performance-based self-identity creates two types of people: perfectionists and avoiders. Perfectionists set up an ideal for themselves that is unattainable. Avoiders make failure part of their identity and refuse to take risks. Either way, it is not the healthiest way of living your life.
Gen. 3:5 “You will be like God.”
Reflecting on the difference between Adam and Eve responding to God and the way that Jesus lived his Passion and death, Pope Benedict XVI makes the reflection:
In this way he transformed the stance of Adam, the primordial human sin, and thus heals humanity. The stance of Adam was: not what you, O God, have desired; rather, I myself want to be a god. This pride is the real essence of sin. We think we are free and truly ourselves only if we follow our own will. God appears as the opposite of our freedom. We need to be free of him – so we think – and only then will we be free. This is the fundamental rebellion present throughout history and the fundamental lie which perverts life. When human beings set themselves against God, they set themselves against the truth of their own being and consequently do not become free but alienated from themselves. We are free only if we stand in the truth of our being, if we are united to God. (Pope Benedict XVI, April 5, 2012)
Adam and Eve fell for the Great Lie. They thought that the Devil was telling them the truth, but he is the Father of Lies and tells many half-truths, to make them more believable. The fundamental rebellion introduced by the Devil confuses the meaning of life and sets up man in an adversarial role in relation to God, rather than taking the correct role of a beloved son or daughter.
To overcome pride, it is important to set oneself firmly in the Father’s hands. He is welcoming to us and wants us to find our way back to him. The experience of pride may lead us down wrong paths, but if we grow in our spiritual awareness, we may eventually end up in the Father’s arms.