Of the seven root passions or sins – pride, lust, anger, avarice, envy, gluttony, and sloth – the most deadly is pride. It was an appeal to pride that persuaded Eve to defy her Creator: “…you shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:6)
Pride always manifests itself in defiance. We know from Catholic tradition that it was the pride of Lucifer that led him to defy God and declare, “I will not serve!”
One or more of the following attributes can be found in a person who succumbs to pride:
Defiance, intolerance, vanity, boastfulness, disdainfulness, revengefulness, impatience, unforgivingness, self-centeredness, stubbornness, unbridled ambition, self-aggrandizement, dishonesty, hypersensitivity, conceitedness, haughtiness, touchiness, and blindness to advice.
As a result of original sin, every human being is born with a tendency toward pride. We know from our own experience that as soon as a child learns to talk, he quickly discovers the word “no,” which serves his stubbornness and defiance. None of us had to learn pride. We were all born with it.
Pride is the doorway that leads to all other sins. Every sin begins with pride. “Pride goeth before destruction: and the spirit is lifted up before a fall. It is better to be humbled with the meek than to divide spoils with the proud.” (Proverbs 16:18-19)
The only true antidote to pride is humility. An “antidote” is defined as “a remedy to counteract the effects of poison” or “something that relieves, prevents, or counteracts.” The Modern Catholic Dictionary describes humility as follows:
The moral virtue that keeps a person from reaching beyond himself. It is the virtue that restrains the unruly desire for personal greatness and leads people to an orderly love of themselves based on a true appreciation of their position with respect to God and their neighbors. Religious humility recognizes one’s total dependence on God; moral humility recognizes one’s creaturely equality with others. Yet humility is not only opposed to pride; it is also opposed to immoderate self-abjection, which would fail to recognize God’s gifts and use them according to his will.
Another word for humility is “abasement,” which means “to lower in character, dignity, or quality” or “to reduce to a lower standing in one’s own eyes or in others’ eyes.”
Of all the virtues, humility is the most difficult for a human being to embrace and practice. We desire to be loved, honored, and praised. We want to be accepted, approved, and respected by others. We recoil when we are despised, reprimanded, or humiliated.
Why would anyone want to practice humility? If we lived our lives only by the standards of the world, we would never want to practice humility. But we are called by God to live our lives according to a higher standard – a standard established and practiced by Jesus Christ. The choice is ours to make – the worldly standard of pride or our Lord’s standard of humility.
What standard will you choose to follow and practice each and every day of your life?