Seven Deadly Sins: Pride

Of Pride, Dorothy Sayers in her commentary on Dante’s Purgatory writes,

Pride is the head and root of all sin, both original and actual. It is the endeavour to be ‘as God’, making self, instead of God, the centre about which the will and desire revolve. In its narrower and more specific aspect, pride exhibits itself as Vainglory–an egotism so overweening that it cannot bear to occupy any place but the first, and hates and despises all fellow-creatures out of sheer lust of domination.”

Pride is the root of all the other sins. It is from a self-sufficient self-will that we choose to overstep the limitations which have been placed on us by our Creator to be our own lord and savior. It is the anti-thesis of Psalm 100 in which the Psalmist writes, “Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” Rather, the proud cry, “It is I who made me, and I am my own.” The heart of rebellion is echoed by Milton in Paradise Lost through the words of Satan who in response to the argument that a creature must obey its Creator says,

‘That we were formed then say’st thou? and the work
Of secondary hands, by task transferred
From Father to his Son? Strange point and new!
Doctrine which we would know whence learnt: who saw
When this creation was? Remember’st thou
Thy making, while the Maker gave thee being?
We know no time when we were not as now;
Know none before us, self-begot, self-raised
By our own quick’ning power, when fatal course
Had circled his full orb, the birth mature
Of this our native heav’n, ethereal sons.”

And so the creature who denies his creation and thus his Creator has succumbed to the lure and folly of pride.

Pride, as one of the perverted loves, takes the additional step of cloaking itself in virtue. Sayers in her essay “The Other Six Deadly Sins” writes,

“The Church…officially recognizes six other capital or basic sins–seven altogether. Of these, three may be roughly called the warm-hearted, or disreputable sins, and the remaining four the cold-hearted or respectable sins. It is interesting to notice that Christ rebuked the three disreputable sins only in mild or general terms, but uttered the most violent vituperations against the respectable ones. Caesar and the Pharisees, on the other hand, strongly dislike anything warm-hearted or disreputable, and set a great store by the cold-hearted and respectable sins, which they are in a conspiracy to call virtues. And we may note that, as a result of this unholy alliance between worldly interest and religious opinion, the common man is rather inclined to canonize the warm-hearted sins for himself, and to thank God openly that he is broad-minded, given to a high standard of living and instinct with righteous indignation–not prurient, strait-laced or namby-pamby, or even as the Pharisee.”

And so, the respectable sinner condemns and despises the warm-hearted sinner for his fleshly weakness and worldly habits while the warm-hearted sinner thanks God he is not like those Pharisees. The irony is subtle but devastating. Did you catch it? Are you proud you did?

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