Twelve-Step “Pride Elimination” Plan | Donald DeMarco, Ph.D. | Homiletic & Pastoral Review
At the end of Lent, as we are called to put the Crucified One at the center of our lives, we are also encouraged to let go of the many subtle ways pride tempts us to keep ourselves at the heart of things.
Pride is the deadliest of the deadly sins. It is unrealistic, unattractive, and unprofitable. One would have to be rather foolish, it seems, to grant significant room in his life for pride. If the devil could laugh, and the angels could weep, they would do so over the way we human beings stubbornly cling to ourselves as the center and the meaning of reality. That is pride. Yet, of all the seven deadly sins, it is the most subtle to diagnose, the most common, and the most difficult to eliminate. We should note, however, that not all pride is deadly (cf. 1 Jn 5:17). There is a sense in which pride is fully justified. A parent has this kind of “good” pride when his children attain some standard of excellence. Likewise, a coach can be proud of his players for comporting themselves with good sportsmanship. Good pride conforms to a good standard; bad pride does not. St. Thomas Aquinas referred to this latter kind of pride as the attempt to achieve a “perverse excellence.” Though it has many facets, this form of pride is, basically, an inordinate desire for praise, honors, and recognition. Because it is “inordinate,” it is out of synchrony with whom we really are, as well as our proper place in the grand scheme of things. “In general,” as John Ruskin has remarked, “pride is at the bottom of all great mistakes.”
At the end of Lent, as we are called to put the Crucified One at the center of our lives, we are also encouraged to let go of the many subtle ways pride tempts us to keep ourselves at the heart of things. Here are some points for our own examination of conscience as we stand before the pierced heart of Jesus.
Pride as Unrealistic:
1) Pride is unrealistic on a personal level. We are not the cause of our own being. We do not bestow upon ourselves whatever gifts we have. Our life is short, and our hour fleeting. It is, as Shakespeare called it, a “brief candle.” It is a mere moment in time, a veritable sliver wedged between two eternities. It makes far more sense that humble gratitude be our dominant characteristic rather than pride. One thing we can truly take credit for is our willingness to attain such humble gratitude.
2) Pride is unrealistic on an historical level. Piety is one virtue that has lost a great deal of its force and beauty in the present era. It honors the historical factors that give us, not only our life, but all the opportunities, conveniences, blessings, and riches to which we are heir. Thus, we honor our parents and our ancestry, as well as our tradition. Because we receive more than we can possibly give, an attitude of thanksgiving seems to be far appropriate than the desire to seek praise.
3) Pride is unrealistic on a social level.