Struggles with Pride
Edward Grant | The Daily Knight
What are the biggest struggles that young men are dealing with today in their spiritual lives? Number one would of course have to be lust. With infinite amounts of pornography available at a moment’s notice to stream to one of various devices we have, and apps like Tinder and Bumble providing ready access to some women willing to engage in fornication, we live in a society ready built to poison the natural lust God gave us for procreation and love. However, an often overlooked second place sin is every bit as dangerous and sinister, and is most certainly on the rise.
That second place is pride. Pride is sometimes called the root of all sin, for every vice one can think of can be traced to pride. For example: let’s say one has an addiction to gambling, which at first does not seem to be related to pride. Gambling at its root in most cases is competitiveness in a bad sense, the desire to dominate others and exalt oneself. These desires are clearly about pride and believing one is deserving of more than what the Lord has given them thus far. What about lust then? Can lust also be traced back to pride? Yes, in fact lust is a manifestation of a very deep and sinister form of pridefulness. Lust results from us being convinced that we should gratify our passions and urges that are clearly temptations and not from God. One can imagine Screwtape or Wormwood from C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters whispering into our mind “It can’t be that bad, your urges are natural. You need to relax. You know what you need right now, who is that priest or your father to tell you what is good for you?”
Saint Thomas Aquinas defined pride in these terms: “pride is the habit, the vice, which disposes a man to make himself more than he is”. Pride is therefore not honestly assessing oneself and finding oneself to be excellent in a given capacity (assuming that is a fair assessment) but rather skewing this assessment unfairly in one’s own favor. C.S. Lewis might fairly have said that he was a good writer, he may have even said reasonably that he was a great writer given the magnitude of his accomplishments and the glory and conversions they helped deliver to God. Lewis could not have reasonably said that he was the greatest writer in history, for that would have been unfair and skewed by his own bias towards himself, which is what we call pride.
Unfortunately the struggle against pride is not over until our death. We are all naturally inclined to assume a position of ourselves that is unearned. Young men must taper their ambitions and give themselves up for the will of God rather than their own desires for status and material wealth, not because those things are inherently bad or that aspiring to them is always wrong, but because we must understand that if God wants those things for us He will deliver them to us. Most of us are not capable of handling power and making out with our salvation intact, which is why God does not make us as wealthy as King Solomon or as powerful as a Mongol Emperor.
Lastly, we must come to realize that our understanding of things is limited and quite hazy. None of us are given special knowledge kept hidden from the rest of society like Gnostics or Mormons would claim. God revealed to us through the church all than we need for our salvation, no important truths are kept out. The mysteries of God are unattainable for us because we are men with small minds not capable of comprehending them, and this is true for all of us even for St Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle and all the great theologians and philosophers throughout history. What we cannot come to know through reason has been revealed to us through the church, and God will not reveal any more because there is nothing more to tell us here. We have the information to make our eternal choice, so there can be no place for questioning church dogmas and doctrine. Those who think they know better than what the magisterium has laid out are acting out of pride, just as the apostate who thinks the church is unnecessary and outdated and thinks their vague abstractions of what God and morality are is acting out of pride. There is a great temptation to submit the reason God gave us to our passions or ideologies rather than submitting our passions and ideologies to reason, which is what God intends for us and the only way to get to heaven.