The Many Faces of Pride

The Many Faces of Pride

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The Many Faces of Pride

   Pride is idolatry, boastfulness, and the failure to recognize deficiencies (Peters 87).  With time, people have become more accepting of pride in their societies.  This progression of acceptance has led to alterations in the definition.  It is the slight tweakings of the definition that have allowed us to perceive pride as a deadly sin and simultaneously an essential for success.


      The beginning of all sin occurred when Eve listened to the evil snake, in the garden of Eden, who told her that she could acquire God's knowledge (Peters 87).  God forbid Eve to eat the apple of knowledge, but she did regardless.  Eve committed the first sin of humankind in an act of pride because pride has been defined as "an attempt at human self-divination" (Peters 87).  Since she was only the second person to walk the earth, Eve had few examples of how to act.  It seems to be that it was her sheer curiosity and amazement with Eden that caused her to eat the apple, not an attempt to become like God.  Despite her intentions, according to the ancient definition of pride Eve sinned the first sin of self-divination.  Another example of ancient, religious pride can be seen through an ancient Jewish sect, the Pharisees.   These men claimed to be the most religious of the land.  Although they did not seek to be at the same level as God, they sought answers and results for their village among themselves when they should have been talking to God.  Often times, the Pharisees bent the rules of the Ten Commandments for themselves but forced the villagers to strictly obey them. To make matters worse, these men wanted to be rewarded for their good deeds of "helping their community."  The Pharisees refused to admit their faults and were condemned "proud" by Jesus (Yancey & Stafford 1125).  God gives us a final example that pride is a deadly sin. Lucifer was created to be one of God's right hand cherubs, "the seal of perfection"  (Ezekiel 28:12-15).  However, one day Lucifer decided that he wanted more knowledge and power than God.  When God found out, Lucifer was kicked out of heaven and fell to the earth, bringing one third of the stars (fallen angels) with him (Isaiah 12:12-14 & Revelations 12:4).

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  Lucifer was "cast down to earth to weaken the nations" as punishment for having the pride to view himself as an idol (Isaiah 12:14).


      As seen with the fall of Lucifer, the condemnation of the Pharisees, and the shame of Eve, when this type of pride occurs God has promised severe repercussions.  "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16: 18).  "The Lord Almighty has a day in  store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled), for all  the cedars of Lebanon, tall and lofty, and all the oaks of Bashan, for all the towering  mountains and all the high hills, for every lofty tower and every fortified wall, for every  trading ship and every stately  vessel.  The arrogance of man will be brought low and the  pride of men humbled; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day, and the idols will totally disappear.  Men will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from dread of the  Lord and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth.  In that day men  will throw away to the rodents and bats their idols of silver and idols of gold, which they  made to worship.  They will flee to caverns in the rocks and to the overhanging crags from dread of the Lord and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth"   (Isaiah 2: 12-21).


      Contrary to the forbidden pride of ancient times, pride was part of daily life and of the chivalric codes during medieval times.  In this society, pride of one's talents and abilities was accepted and often boasted.  In the story, "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," many types of pride were prevalent.  Arthur's nephew was proud of his uncle, the king, and offered to swing an ax in his place so that the king would not risk injury.  Also in this story, Gawain exemplified pride of property when he obtained the green scarf and refused to return it.  Gawain was proud most of all by the way in which he obtained the scarf--he kissed the Green Knight's wife and received the scarf as a gift.


      The medieval spirit of pride is also seen in "The Nun's Priest's Tale" and in Fountaine's fable, "Le loup et Le Cigonge."  In "The Nun's Priest's Tale," Chaunticleer has a dream characteristic of the medieval, boastful type of pride, while the stork in "Le Loup et Le Cigonge" lives a life full of pride.  Both of the birds in these stories are very vain and proud of their beautiful voices.  When asked to sing, both comply, allowing their enemies to take advantage of these downfalls.  In "The Nun's Priest's Tale," the fox, Duan Russel, relishes the moment that Chaunticleer closes his eyes to sing by grabbing Chaunticleer's neck and running away with the bird.  A similar scenario unfolds in "Le Loup et Le Cigonge."  The stork is perched in a tall tree, holding a morsel of food in his mouth.  The cunning wolf persuaded the stork to sing a song for him; as the stork opens his mouth to sing, the bit of food falls out and is stolen by the wolf.  Although Gawain, Chaunticleer, and the stork possessed vain pride, it was accepted, though exposed as folly, in their medieval society.


      In today's society it is a degree of pride, not the vain pride of medieval times, that is tolerated and even revered.  Now, there is a hierarchy of pride that encompasses several definitions of the word.  Each definition is a different degree that is either essential or ill-mannered and tacky.  At the top tier of the modern pride hierarchy is the religious definition, the greatest of the seven deadly sins.  We acknowledge that this type of pride exists and are not about to argue with God about it.  On the second tier of the hierarchy is confidence, which is necessary in our modern world.  Confidence is a lesser degree of pride because a person has faith in his abilities and attributes.   If people lacked confidence or self-esteem, then it would be quite difficult to procure a job or to teach youth.  For instance, when a business says that it is proud of its work, it really means that it is confident in the performance of the product or service offered.  Therefore, businesses must "take pride" in their work and products so that the consumer will rely on companies the global economy will flourish.


      While applying to colleges this fall, my beliefs have been reaffirmed that confidence is essential.  A very fine line must be distinguished between boasting of achievements and humbly describing honors.  Initially, it may have felt like I was proud or a braggart; but I learned to write about myself so that I was not boasting or keeping any pertinent facts a secret.  I fully understood that confidence was necessary for success once I looked at the vast numbers of applicants vying for limited spots at colleges.  For example if I wrote an essay about achievements that was so humble, then I could ultimately be viewed as inferior to the large applicant pool - the opposite of my goal.


      Aside from succeeding, or attempting to succeed in my case, people believe that confidence is necessary because confidence and pride are not leaves from the same tree.  If a person has the faith to seek solace in God, and God alone, then God instills in him the confidence of faith (Moan).  This God given confidence, not the sin of any degree of pride, is the tool that allows people to journey through the depths of society and life experiences unscathed (Moan).  "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you:  Do not think of yourself more highly than  you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the  measure of faith God has given you" (Romans 12: 3).


      "One must seek the truth, the word of God, instead of other idols, to avoid being proud.   Pride consists in a man making his personality the only test, instead of making the truth the test. It is not pride to wish to do well, or even to look well, according to a real test. It is pride to think that a thing looks ill because it does not look like something characteristic of  oneself" (  For instance, when a mother is "proud" of her son's little-league performance, she actually means something that is the very opposite of pride.  She is not idolizing her son or placing him before God.  The mother is merely expressing the joy that the son provides her and the confidence she has in his abilities (


      Today, pride remains as one of the deadly sins, but is also essential for success in the modern world.  It is the ancient religious definition of pride that we recognize as being sinful. and  a derivative of that idol pride that is expected in the modern age.  Confidence is abundant and welcomed in many areas of life. If sinful pride is merely "the failure to recognize deficiencies" then, those who are able to show confidence and humility simultaneously have merely adapted to the standards and expectations of today's society (Schimmel 27).



Works Cited:

Moan, Jamie.  Personal Interview.  25 October 2002.

Peters, Ted.  Sin:  Radical Evil in Soul and Society.  Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1994.

"Pride, Sin of Lucifer."  ABCOG:  Christian Living and Literature.  Internet.   24 October 2002.

Schimmel, Solomon.  The Seven Deadly Sins:  Jewish, Christian, and Classical Reflections on Human Nature.  New York:  Free Press, 1992.

Word, God and His Disciples, of.  The Bible.  Unknown:  Disciples, ?BC- ?AD

Yancey, Philip, and Tim Stafford.  The New Student Bible:  Notes by Philip Yancey and Tim  Stafford.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 1996.
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