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Why is Pride the most dangerous of all passions?(Passions- Part 6)

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September 29, 2018

Why is Pride the most dangerous of all passions?(Passions- Part 6)

Pride is the mother of all passions, but why is it the most dangerous of all passions?  

Before we begin, it is important to note that the passions are the movements within us that misdirect the faculties that God has given us as gifts. Rather than using these faculties, such as the senses, our intellect, reason, emotion, creativity, compassion, etc., to make our way to God and to grow in the likeness of His Son, the passions will disorient us and lead us further away from God.  

In this case, the passion of pride will always misdirect a person to constantly focus on the self! Unfortunately, many believe that pride is synonymous to being arrogant and loud, and yet, this passion can manifest itself in the most silent and reserved people. Its not merely an outward expression of thinking highly of oneself combined with attention-seeking behaviour, but an inward movement where a person slowly begins to make himself the center of all that exists around them. 

Pride is often considered to be the very sin that is at the root of so much of the evil we know to exist in creation. According to Holy Tradition, the devil, before being cast out of heaven, was a Cherub who stood in the presence of God. He was adorned with all the honor and glory of all the angelic beings, yet his downfall was that he desired to be equal and greater than God. Although, the Church does not claim to have a detailed account of all that happened between this fallen angel and the Lord, the Church does formulate some of her teaching on this matter based on proper interpretation of holy scripture. For instance, let’s read together Ezekiel chapter 28: 15-17:  

Ezekiel 28:  

“15 You were blameless in your ways  

    from the day you were created, 

    till iniquity was found in you. 

16 In the abundance of your trade 

    you were filled with violence, and you sinned; 

so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, 

    and the guardian cherub drove you out 

    from the midst of the stones of fire. 

17 Your heart was proud because of your beauty; 

    you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. 

I cast you to the ground; 

    I exposed you before kings, 

    to feast their eyes on you. 

 

The Church has interpreted this text as referring to Satan, that fallen angel and great deceiver of mankind. Notice how the text refers to how pride filled his heart. Again, it is because of this passage and others like it that the Church has always taught pride as that great sin that led to the fall of angels and led to the fall of mankind! We therefore believe that pride is very often at the root of many of our sin because this is the one sin that Satan will often utilize to have us do precisely what he didto seek out our own interests, comforts, desires, and glories. It is for this very reason that scripture warns us of how much God despises pride and rebukes those who have a proud heart. One of the more powerful passages on this very subject is found in Sirach chapter 10:  

 

Sirach 10:  

9 How can he who is dust and ashes be proud? 

    for even in life his bowels decay. 

10 A long illness baffles the physician; 

    the king of today will die tomorrow. 

11 For when a man is dead, 

    he will inherit creeping things, and wild beasts, and worms. 

12 The beginning of man’s pride is to depart from the Lord; 

    his heart has forsaken his Maker. 

13 For the beginning of pride is sin, 

    and the man who clings to it pours out abominations. 

Therefore the Lord brought upon them extraordinary afflictions, 

    and destroyed them utterly.     

 

The author warns you and me that it is pride that tears us away from God and makes us forsake our Creator. It blinds us from realizing that the end of all men is the same and that its end is always sinful. But how does this sin manifest itself in the each of us?   

 

In the Gospels, we see that the summary of all our faith is to love our God and our neighbour. What is interesting is to realize that pride, when fully developed in the soul of a person, does two key things: it creates enmity between the person and others around them, and enmity between that person and God.  

 

Let’s begin with the idea of enmity with others. We know that pride will often lead a person to exalt themselves and to think of themselves more worthy, honorable, and generally better than others. When this thought of pride is found hidden deep within the heart of a man, we see in the person the manifestation of other passions, such as anger, in which we are easily offended and our egos are easily bruised; fear, in which we begin to grow anxious and worrisome of how others will perceive us; and sadness, in which we feel underappreciated because others don’t treat us as what we believe they should. Not to mention that we see the formation of other sins against our brothers, such as judgement, envy, gossip, and slander.  

 

The desert fathers would teach us that the solution to pride is to direct the heart back towards God and others through acts of humility. Only in thinking of others more than ourselves can we conquer this sin. This can be practiced through obedience to the commandments of God. Listen carefully to this story that is recounted in the sayings of the desert fathers – Abba Daniel taught the following:    

 

“At Babylon the daughter of an important person was possessed by a devil. A monk for whom her father had a great affection came to the house. When the monk arrived, the woman possessed with the devil came and slapped him. But he only turned the other cheek, according to the Lord’s command (Matt 5:39). The devil, tortured by this, cried out, ‘What violence! The commandment of Jesus drives me out.’ Immediately the woman was cleansed. This is how the pride of the devil is brought low, through the humility of the commandment of Christ.” [From Abba Daniel – The Sayings of the Desert Fathers] 

 

What we see depicted in this story is how obedience to the commandments, and the willing acceptance of humility in our lives can lead to the conquering of pride and all its evils, even to the point where the devil is easily defeated through the adoption of humility.  

 

The other aspect we must consider is how pride leads to enmity with God. This is precisely the error of our first ancestors Adam and Eve. Rather than allowing themselves to acquire knowledge through obedience and submission to God, the first man and woman allowed themselves to want to be equal to God by knowing good and evil on their own without Him. They elevated themselves and wanted equality with God. This finally led to them being separated from God and being cast out of the garden. Hence, when a person exalts themselves and seeks their own honor, this can ultimately lead to theseeking their own will rather than submitting to God’s. Pride therefore is the sin that makes every one of us leave the presence of God and begin to worship in front of a mirror. We have replaced God in this case with a picture of ourselves. We begin to think that we ‘deserve’ to be pleased, our desires ought to be fulfilled, our satisfaction and comfort should be pursued at all costs… It is here that we see the potential for other passions to develop that all have to do with our pleasing and passions, such as lust, greed, and gluttony. 

 

As mentioned earlier, in accordance with the desert fathers, it is befitting for us to quote the great St. Anthony, the father of all desert Fathers. He teaches us that the Lord hates pride and that humility is the key to fighting against this vile passion:     

 

“Learn to love humility, for it will cover all your sins.  All sins are repulsive before God, but the most repulsive of all is pride of the heart.  Do not consider yourself learned and wise; otherwise, all your efforts will be destroyed, and your boat will reach the harbor empty.  If you have great authority, do not threaten anyone with death.  Know that, according to nature, you too are susceptible to death, and that every soul sheds its body as its final garment.” [St. Anthony the Great] 

 

Finally, pride is the passion that can lead each of us to spiritual death. It introduces strife between me and my neighbour, as well as separation between the love of God and me. We therefore should acquire humility and be like the Lord Christ Himself, so that we may eradicate all traces of pride from our souls.  

 

Remember my beloved, know your faith, live your faith, and teach your faith.

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