Join us on Sunday for week 2 of our Se7en worship series, wrath and patience. Read a note about pride from Rev. Daniel Humbert:
There is nothing innately religious or even spiritual about the so-called 7 Deadly Sins. Whether you are a person of faith or not, we all struggle with pride, envy, lust, wrath, sloth, greed, and gluttony. You don't have to be a follower of Jesus to struggle with any of these things. They are quite literally a condition of being human. You may have different names for them, but each one besets each of us no matter who we are. Each one of them is about self-fulfillment, selfishness, and self-determination. No one is immune from them or their destruction!
Interestingly, the seven virtues that help us overcome the seven deadly sins are likewise not innately spiritual. Whether you have a faith commitment or not, the virtues of humility, kindness, chastity, patience, diligence, generosity, and self-control are powerful characteristics for disabling deadly sins. The power of these virtues is that they focus on "other" rather than self. The ability of the virtues to turn us from inward to outward is what enables them to overcome the sin and is also what begins to tie them to the Christian faith.
As followers of Jesus, we call the 7 "setbacks" deadly sins, not because we think they can literally kill us (though some might!), but because we believe they kill our soul. We believe they can sever our relationship with God—thus causing spiritual death. A sin is anything we do that causes us to miss the mark of God's will or desire for our lives. That is spiritual death. The 7 Deadly Sins clearly cause us to miss the mark of God's desire.
The first and chief deadly sin is pride. Pride is the first sin identified in scripture (Genesis 3:1-7) and I believe it is the sin that leads to all other sins. Pride causes us, any of us, to put self above others. It causes us to claim that we are better than, higher than, more than. Pride claims the following thoughts:
I’m better than you. I don’t need you. It won’t work without me. I can’t learn anything from you. You have nothing to offer me.
It is arrogance and hubris. Pride claims the audacity of superiority of one person over another. Followers of Christ believe that everyone is made in the image of God and though each one of us is different in terms of skill, talent, and ability, we are all of the utmost value to God and others and therefore not superior to others.
The sin of pride is not that I'm proud of what my child has done or what I have accomplished. That is actually a helpful thought or behavior. It is affirming, life-giving, and helpful. No, the sin of pride doesn't have care or concern for others. It is actually self-inflating and self-directed. The deadliness of pride is that it tears the value of others from them at the expense of love and justice. Pride's deadly force is that it causes the possessor to wrongly believe that they don't need God or anyone else; they are more important than God or anybody else; they have more value than God or anyone else.
The antidote to pride is humility. Whereas pride is all about self, humility is all about the other. Where pride seeks to raise our persona, humility seeks to lower our perception of self. Humility, however, does not mean that we think less of ourselves, but rather that we think of ourselves less. When we allow humility to guide us, we are foregoing status of some kind so that we can use our influence and/or resources in service to others.
Humility is not specifically a spiritual principle. For instance, Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great identifies what he calls 5th level leaderships, the highest level of leadership. The undeniable element of a 5th level leader is a blend of extreme personal humility with intense professional will where the leader channels personal ego needs away from self toward the larger goal of building the organization. Humility eclipses pride any day in leadership, just as it does in life.
For followers of Jesus, humility has a tremendously high value. Jesus would ask his followers to be last, to be at the lowest seat, to wash feet, to serve others, to be humble. One of the most elegant descriptions of this is written by the Apostle Paul to the church at Philippi (Philippians 2:1-11) where he describes the undeniable humility of Jesus and calls his followers to offer the same humility.
Whether we are a follower of Jesus or not, the virtue of humility is a cure for pride. My challenge to myself and to you is to consider how the dilemma of "I'm better than you," can become the gift of, "What can I offer you?" Humility can become a great strength for the weakness of pride and a great light for its darkness.
Imagine the power we would have to transform the world if we allowed our virtues to overcome our vices!