The sin of pride is considered a little old fashioned in today’s western world. Society virtually celebrates the boasting and hubris of the successful, finding in it an appropriate expression of the value of winning.
But the genuinely Christian attitude to pride is of course very different.
The interesting thing about pride is that it can don so many different guises. Like an epidemic virus, it changes its appearance in order to avoid detection and resistance, and by so doing, it creeps beneath our defences against it. The human body fights such viruses by recognising every new disguise of the virus and continually creating new antibodies to fight it off. The spiritual person needs a similar strategy.
In the hope of helping the reader to strip away the disguises, I present a small survey of some of the many masks pride can wear. Readers are invited to add their own ‘masks’ to the list by clicking on the Comments link above right.
I offer the warning that I myself am susceptible to all the forms of pride listed below (how else could I know so much about them!) and struggle with them daily. Identifying a problem is only halfway to fixing it.
Mask #1: Praise Magnet
You tell people how awful you are in order to make them feel compelled to disagree with you and tell you just how good you actually are. Very clever disguise that masquerades as humility.
Mask #2: Helpful Criticism
With great kindness, you offer to help others to weed out their faults and correct them. Actually just a clever disguise for judging others and feeling superior.
Mask #3: The Joker
You use your sense of humour to monopolise conversations and become the centre of attention. You feel envious if someone else takes that attention away from you. But that’s not pride, is it? You’re only making people laugh. That’s a good thing!
Mask #4: The Quiet Cassandra
Cassandra was a character in Greek mythology cursed with always being right, but never being believed. You are convinced that you are always right, but since no one ever seems to want to listen to you, you keep quiet and suffer the indignity with martyr-like patience. Somewhere deep inside you harbour the dream that one day you will be vindicated in front of all those who doubted and ignored you. Serves ‘em right.
Mask #5: The Mule
You know, deep in your heart, that you are wrong, and yet you obstinately continue to push your case through sheer donkey stubbornness. It’s no longer about who’s right or wrong, but about who is going to win.
Mask #6: Your Majesty
It is the duty of everyone in this world, from your closest family to the stranger on the street, to serve Your Royal Highness’ best interests and make Your Royal Highness as comfortable and as happy as possible. Why can’t people see that? How dare they make you wait in line while others have their go first? How dare they not jump to serve your needs when you click your fingers? Intolerable!
Mask #7: It’s Mine, I Tell You!
Who belongs in the spotlight? Me! Who should be admired and respected? Me! Who should have the last slice of pizza? Me! Who should take on the trickiest tasks? Me! Who should help and rescue everyone in the world personally? Me! Who should be seen with the rich and famous? Me! Who should decide what we watch on TV tonight? Me! Don’t you get it? All these things are the prerogative of the best suited person to carry them out. Me!
Fr Ant (Me!)