December 22, 2012

A Letter to Pride

Dear Friend,

As you know, making a good confession can be both surprisingly liberating and absolutely dreadful. What you did in opening up your heart and coming clean to me and, more importantly, the Lord will, I pray, be the doorway to something new. In your case--and I really believe this--a new way to live, to be human.

Let me just say quickly how proud I am. Of you of course. Your heartfelt confession to me that night under the stars was the seal--many, including myself, are thoroughly impressed by your growth the last 3 months. For I was struck, upon meeting you that first week, at how haughty you were, towering over others with your ego, shooting any passerby down with words and gestures if you felt wronged in anyway. And you were, according to yourself, more than justified in your actions, always demanding your way or making exit, ignoring family wishes, neglecting close friends, carelessly using girls as if some toy, grossly demeaning critics--you had plenty--crediting only yourself for your gifts and talents, in the acquisition of your local fame. Nearly every rotten thing I heard from people’s stories you confirmed. Your pride had taken you and hadn’t planned on relinquishing.

Yet after that night, hearing your vulnerability, my heart began to burn for you and your future. Thus this letter. It almost seems like perfect timing, but I have recently finished reading a book about the Passions and the Virtues and overcoming habitual sins that spring to life in an impassioned soul. Your love affair with pride shaped you into the sinner you were. It’s fruit is death, and you ate without restraint. But as we talked about, Pride, like the rest of the Passions, dies at Jesus’ cross.

We both know, though, that pride, after living with, in and through it for so long, isn’t just going to go away. We struggle. Even if it takes the rest of lives, we fight for what we believe to be the good life, the best life, the life Jesus has shown us, a life of, amongst other virtues, humility. Because we can't talk about the putting-to-death of some passion without talking about the acquisition of its opposite virtue. In our case (ours because I stand with you in this), we strive for Humility.

But in order to do this, and the main reason for this letter, I want to share with you the manifestations of pride--or how I have to come to know them from the book I mentioned, Defeating Sin: Overcoming our Passions and Changing Forever. Pride has many forms in many contexts and illuminating them here, I hope, will inspire deeper reflection and effective soul-searching. Introspection is paramount in these affairs.

And so, as a starting point, in what follows is author Joseph Huneycutt's thoughts on the manifestations of pride, summarized. Note the idiosyncrasies of each, which, by the way, extend beyond what is mentioned here--think about how else they could look. And reflect on how they have taken shape in you (I've bolded them below to help you see, remember and return to them).

Pride takes the form of irreverence, deliberately neglecting the worship of God and adequately expressing thanks and gratitude. 'Worship is a foolish enterprise, a wholly waste of time,' it declares. Also, pride can be sentimental in "being satisfied with pious feelings and beautiful ceremonies without striving to obey God's will."

Failing to bring to God the persons or causes that should stir in us compassion is pride as presumption. Presumption remains stagnant, fully content and satisfied in one's spiritual activities and achievements.

Pride can also crop up as over-sensitiveness, which, I'm sure you would agree, was prominent in you. As over-sensitiveness, pride is the "expectation that others will dislike, reject or mistreat us" and "timidity in accepting responsibility, or cowardice in facing difficulty or suffering. Surrender to feelings of depression, gloom, pessimism, discouragement, self-pity, or fear of death, instead of fighting to be brave, cheerful and hopeful."

Listen, these words, the quotes I'm pulling from this book should be read slow. Humility, what we want to cultivate in you, will recognize the wisdom of a spiritual man and take heed, but not with haste. And don't be discouraged if you see yourself in all these forms. The struggle is day by day, moment by moment. When you're ready, continue reading.

Disobedience is another. This is the "rejection of God's known will in favor of our own interests or pleasures." It could even be "slow and reluctant obedience." Disobedience would rather drown itself in its own affairs, leaving the scraps of its time, energy and interest for the things of God.

In the garden, Adam's impenitence was his refusal to face up to his sins and confess them before God. As well, pride sees no shame in justifying or discounting its sins as insignificant, natural or inevitable. Or perhaps it fears injury to reputation more than it feels sorrow for what its sins are in the eyes of God. Impenitence can even be doubt that God could forgive our sins.

Vanity, in our day and age, is accepted as a virtue in many circles, but it's surely an offspring of pride. Vanity credits itself instead of God for talents, abilities, insight, accomplishments, good works. It ignores indebtedness to others. "Undue concern over, or expenditure of time, money, or energy on looks dress, surroundings, etc., in order to impress others."

And finally pride can reveal itself as both arrogance--insisting others conform to our wishes or leadership, or accept our estimate of our self worth--and snobbery, "pride about race, family, position personality, education, skill, achievements, or possessions."

That's a ton I just dumped on you, I know. Pride is a diamond with many faces, one for every area of life. You and I both know the lure of it all, how it calls to us. My hope though is that reading these manifestations will pour water on its fire and even help you see it for what it is, a failed way to be human and an appalling stench in God's nostrils. My prayer is that you would come to hate it, but not as an end in itself. Ultimately, it's about loving God and striving to be fully human as Jesus was.

Take a few moments everyday, because pride will continue to visit as often as you don't want it to, to sit in prayerful silence. Give yourself to God. Entrust yourself to him and him alone, since he is the one who sanctifies you. Listen. Where is pride cropping up? Write down your thoughts. Take inventory on your heart and soul. And diffuse your pride more and more with the practice of humility. Because it isn't just about the killing of pride but the acquisition of humility, for this is Christ's way.

Blessings on Your Journey,



All quotations taken from, Joseph Huneycutt, Defeating Sin: Overing Our Passions and Changing Forever, (Salisbury, MA: Regina Orthodox Press, 2007).