Meditations for Layfolks - Pride

As wisdom is the most perfect of man's virtues, so pride is the worst of his vices, for it is the most foolish. Perhaps for this very reason there is always a danger lest we misunderstand the nature of this sin, for first of all it must be noted that a lie can never be a virtue. It can never be right to say anything which is contrary to the truth, for the truth is none other than God Himself. Con sequently it can be no part of pride merely to record the favour and excellences that He has bestowed upon us: in that, there can be no sin at all, but rather a distinct obligation. It is my business to discover for myself whatever He has thought good to give me; for it is surely obvious that whatever has been given, has been given just because it was needful to me in the particular work which from the beginning He designed me to carry out for Him. I have a definite vocation here in life, and am therefore equipped so as to be able to carry it out: therefore my duty demands that I should become conscious of my powers in order thereby to discover my vocation. He chooses me for a work and fits me for it; but I have to argue backwards, and from my fitness find the work to which I am called.

In all this, then, there is no sin, but common sense; nor can pride consist in the mere recognition of my powers and their full employment in my life. I must try to note all my advantages, physical, moral, intellectual, religious, etc. Where, then, shall I find the particular evil of pride? It lies in this, that I arrogate to myself the powers which I know to belong to Another. I take pleasure in my skill, deliberately ignoring that fact that it is to God that the glory should be given. The real wickedness of the sin lies in the fact that I do not render to God the things that are God's. I pretend that it is all my own doing, and I act on that presumption. Others are despised, looked down upon; God is forgotten; and like the frog in the fable I swell at the thought of my own importance. The rest of the world can go as it likes, for I am not as the rest of men. It is this precisely which makes pride so distasteful to God, for it is putting ourselves in His place and on His throne, and bidding the world break the solemn injunction of the Most High that besides Him there should be none other gods. Pride, then, is not the truth, but a lie. It is the claiming of something which is due to Another.

Hence, then, the foolishness of pride, for we can see it so clearly in others. We notice them asking for compliments because of their achievements, and almost engrossing the whole interest of the world in the sphere of their own importance: whatever they have done is bruited forth to their little circle as a triumph of personal skill. Now what we notice in others, we can see very clearly must first have been evident in ourselves. It is as though the brush should claim against the painter the masterpiece of colour in which it was but an indifferent instrument, for which ten thousand other brushes could each equally have done service. Pride becomes almost as distasteful to man as it is to God. It is, then, for me to look into my own soul and note how far God is excluded from my good deeds. People accuse themselves as though of a sin that they took pleasure in hearing themselves praised. How could they well do otherwise? There may be others who refuse- all such praise not really, however, it will be found, because it does not give them pleasure, but because it causes them embarrassment. What, then, must I do if I find myself growing in conceit, and talking over-frequently of myself and my powers? Let me meditate repeatedly on the Divine Omnipotence which endows all creation with its richness. I am part of the plan, I fit into that design; but the plan and the design are His, and to Him also is traceable my own fitness for them. It is the prayer of that penitent of Egypt who had fallen through pride in her beauty: "O Thou who made me, have mercy on me!" Let me think often of God as my Creator.

- text taken from Meditations for Layfolk by Father Bede Jarrett, O.P.