PRIDE HAS MANY FORMS
“Are you a humble person?
You probably will duck that question, sensing a trap. ‘If I say that I am humble,’ you reason, ‘I will appear to be proud.’ Pressed for an answer, you will give an evasive reply, such as, ‘Well, I’m not as humble as I’d like to be.’
That is not a bad answer under any circumstances. However, if you really do think that you are reasonably humble, saying so will not mark you as being a proud person.
A COMMON MISCONCEPTION
This is a misconception which many people have concerning the virtue of humility. It is thought that humility demands that we belittle ourselves, that we pretend to be less than we are.
However, such an attitude is a travesty of humility. Genuine humility is built upon truth. It is insincerity, not humility, to profess that we do not possess a particular virtue or talent which in fact we do possess.
ACKNOWLEDGING THE SOURCE OF OUR HUMILITY
The essence of humility is found, not in downgrading ourselves, but in recognising that whatever we are, by grace or by nature, we are through the bounty of God. Whatever claim we may have to distinction, we know that we can take no credit for it. All credit must go to God.
Consequently we do not dare to look down upon anyone else, be he sinner, pauper or fool. If God has seen fit to bestow on us, for His own reasons, more graces or advantages than He has accorded another, this gives us no right to congratulate ourselves. We have not lifted ourselves by our own bootstraps.
‘SINNERS, PAUPERS AND FOOLS’
In theory we do admit, of course, that God is the source of all our spiritual and human assets. In practice, however, we too often surrender to feelings of superiority. Unless we are vigilant, we may find ourselves harbouring feelings of disdain toward another because of his poverty or because of his lack of education or of social grace.
The word ‘pride’ is often used inexactly. We speak of proud parents, for example, when we really mean pleased and happy parents. We speak of taking pride in our work, when we really mean that we are conscientious in our work. It is when we feel that we are e s s e n t i a l l y better than someone else, that we become guilty of pride.
THE MANY FORMS OF PRIDE
There are many forms of pride: pride of nationality, of race, of religion (we Catholics have sinned here!), of social position or of wealth. The form of pride which is spiritually most damaging, however, is intellectual pride. This is a state of mind in which a person considers his own judgements to be infallible. It is the kind of pride which is exhibited by the self-righteous person who weighs other individuals on his own scale of values – and usually finds the other wanting.
Intellectual pride also is the outstanding weakness of extremists, whether they be extremists of the right or of the left. To the extremist of the right, all who disagree with him are Communists, fools or heretics. To the extremist of the left, all other men are Fascists, tools of Wall Street or reactionaries.
THE ‘IF I CAN’T UNDERSTAND IT, THEN IT ISN’T SO’-ATTITUDE
Intellectual pride can rise to such heights as to set itself up in judgment over God. There are individuals whose attitude is, ‘If I can’t understand it, then it isn’t so.’ Such persons feel quite competent to comprehend everything that is in God’s mind. This is the kind of pride by which Lucifer and his cohorts sinned. It was this kind of pride which hardened the hearts of the Pharisees and blinded them to Christ’s miracles. It is a pride manifested by many modern ‘thinkers’, and sometimes by common folk such as you and I.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PRIDE AND SIMPLE VANITY
There is a big difference between pride and simple vanity. A desire to be noticed and admired is standard human equipment. We can be quite convinced that all our gifts originate in God, and still be hurt by a slight or criticism, still be pleased at being elected president of the Garden Club or at being seated at the speaker’s table.
Vanity, even excessive vanity, lacks the radical malice of pride which is basically an assault upon the rights of God. However, whether proud or merely vain, we shall be wise to heed our Lord’s warning, ‘Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.'”
– Fr Leo J. Trese, 1966