Pride is a complex development in all human nature. The plethora of connotations of pride confuses common man. Pride is referred to as positive, as in: “My daughter won the spelling bee! I am so proud.” “I am proud of my recent promotion at work.” Pride drives us to improve ourselves. Pride eliminates complacency. However, pride is a negative when we are too proud to apologize, we are too proud to admit we are wrong, we insist we are always right. The Ancient Greeks called it hubris – extreme pride that results in one’s downfall. Odysseus’ pride made him gloat over his accomplishments and was therefore punished by the gods for it. C.S. Lewis goes so far as to regard pride as the root of all sin. Every sin, we commit, he states, originates from pride. He devotes an entire chapter of Mere Christianity to pride and how harmful it is. St. Thomas Aquinas calls it the “queen of all vices” and even states there is something satanic in it and St. Gregory also discusses it in terms of the casting off of our Creator. Lucifer himself was proud and this led to his fall. If the “Bearer of Light” is susceptible to pride, what makes us think we can dodge it?
As Catholics, how is it even possible to negotiate our own pride into that positive connotation and away from the destructive pride that leads to our own demise? We want to avoid complacency, also known as sloth or laziness, because it is undesirable, but at the same time, active haughtiness is a vice as well. Can our desire to actively please God become our source of pride? Our refusal to embarrass ourselves as Christians in God’s eyes could lead us to live according to God’s will, but, and it is a big BUT, how should we pat ourselves on the back for doing what we should already be doing.
As Catholics, we believe in the Truth; we know the path to righteousness, but this becomes a source of ill-fated pride as well. Looking down our noses at those who do not believe what we believe instigates our pride. We are sinful when we think we know better than others and snub God’s role in their lives. We have to believe that God is working in their lives, just as He works in ours. We may be a part of that work, but it will be our humility and not our pride that will bring others to the Church. Pride is therefore a slippery slope when it comes to Evangelization. In this arena, we are not called to complacency of course. Our “pride” in Holy Mother Church is what empowers us to spread the Gospel. We must be firm in our faith and secure in our beliefs in order to lead others to Christ’s true Church, but not so arrogant in our beliefs that we turn off those we are trying to reach. Sometimes it is just too tempting to shake our heads at someone or a belief that we believe to be ignorant or foolish. The great thing about the Church is that she is constant and consistent; using this to our advantage, just the facts can speak for the Church herself and we will not have to resort to condescending and patronizing evangelization, which so many people resent. Pride is a difficult concept. It is an attitude and a behavior, but most of all it is a sin. As St. Francis professed, “Preach the Gospel always, use words if necessary,” it will be our joy in our faith, our exercise of the Sacraments, and our knowledge of the Church, that will steer us away from pride and then we can truly say, “We are proud to be Catholic.”