Dealing with Pride Correctly

Let us talk about pride, the most basic of human sins.  The Venerable John Climacus in his book The Ladder of Divine Ascent wrote: “Pride is denial of God. […] The beginning of pride is the consummation of vainglory; the middle is the humiliation of our neighbour, the shameless parade of our labours, complacency in the heart, hatred of exposure; and the end is denial of God’s help, the extolling of one’s own exertions, fiendish character.”

St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov) in his Ascetic Works says that a synonym for the word “pride” is “lying”. As we know, the father of lies is the devil. This is what our Lord Jesus Christ calls the fallen spirit: “You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44).

As we can see from this, the beginning of pride is always self-love and the desire to have others not only love you, but also obey you and do your will. This vain feeling forms a kind of a theory, a “religion,” in which man replaces God himself. A person who is allowing this to happen becomes […] anti-Christian in his spirit, which he cultivates in himself. St. Paul gives us a very precise definition of pride: “Let no one deceive you in any way, for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God.” (2 Thess. 2:3,4) 

This is the path of the proud: creating an ideology, aimed to secretly place one’s ego in the center and making the world revolve around it. A proud person often shows amazing zeal and puts an incredible amount of effort into this. Everything that does not fit into this ideology is thrown into the garbage, not only because it does not fit, but also because it causes a proud person a terrible torment of guilty conscience. In the depths of his soul, he still knows that his constructs are false. There is no Divine truth in them, and consequently no life. This means that they are bound to collapse. Realizing his gives the proud man terrible fits of anger and rage toward anything that is contrary to his teaching and proves his inconsistency. Yet his castles of pride are destined to be destroyed. 

Let us consider the fall of Satan. Let us remember the fall of the holy forefathers Adam and Eve. Let us recall the fate of Nimrod, the ungodly builder of the Tower of Babel. Here is what St. Demetrius of Rostov writes about it: “[a part of the tower] was torn away by the storm and fell on him [Nimrod], which resulted in his death. God judged that he who had sinned by creating the Tower of Babel was executed by it. Others say that he was abducted from the living by demons. Both legends are probable, because for his opposition to God and for his countless atrocities, he had to get a place with no other than the demons. He was stricken by God and taken by demons to hell.”

Let us also recall another Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. In a fit of pride, he said, “Is this not magnificent Babylon, which I have built as a royal capital by my mighty power and for my glorious majesty?” While the words were still in the king’s mouth, a voice came down from heaven: “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: The kingdom is taken from you!“ Immediately the sentence was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven away from human society, he ate grass like oxen, and his body was bathed with the dew of heaven, until his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails became like birds’ claws.” (Dan. 4:30-33).

Let us recall Herod Agrippa, who imagined himself to be a god and demanded that other people honor him as a god. For this he was smitten by an angel and eaten alive by worms (see Acts 12:21-23).

From these examples, we see that pride and indulgence in it makes a person demon-like and ultimately leads him to death and hell. This is the only end for the proud.

In one way or another, we are all plagued by pride as a kind of spiritual infection. Pride is at the heart of the original sin that each of us inherited from our holy forefathers Adam and Eve.

The path to healing consists of these steps:

  1. Admit that you are sick with pride.
  2. Realize that the war on pride is your life’s work and that it continues until your last breath.
  3. Do not trust yourself: your thoughts, feelings and desires. Try to take them in the bridle of God’s commandments and accept only those thoughts, emotions and desires that correspond to the commandments given to us by the Lord.
  4. One should nurture in oneself the opposite virtue to pride – humility. Cultivate in yourself the mechanical side of humility that is patience. Repent often, both in personal prayer before the Lord, and in the Sacrament of Confession before the priest. Repentance crushes pride and does not allow it to grow.
  5. Participate in the Sacraments and the life of the Church in general. This lets into you the grace of the Holy Spirit, which burns your sins, unites you with God and leads you on the right path to salvation.
  6. During your earthly life, do not seek to be served, but try to turn your life into doing good service to God and people, following the example of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  7. Let us remember psalm 137: “O daughter Babylon, you devastator! Happy shall they be who pay you back what you have done to us! Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!” Do not wait until your pride turns into a “Godzilla” and devours you, making you demon-possessed. …Because then the Lord will take the hammer of sorrow in his right hand to help you, and it will be very hard. Dash your own “little ones” of pride against the rock of Christ’s commandments. Nip pride in the bud. Then the Lord will look upon your great act of faith and revive your soul, saving you and establishing you in bliss and eternal joy.

Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds

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