“The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect … is the jewel of the kingdom.” Sun Tzu – The Art of War –
Pride is probably the most serious of the seven deadly sins (pride, wrath, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, and sloth.) Although the concept of the seven deadly sins is not found in scripture, the sin of pride is frequently warned against in the Bible. In the Book of Genesis, the serpent tempts Eve in the Garden of Eden by appealing to pride and envy, with the promise that she “will be like God, knowing good and evil” after eating the forbidden fruit.
A famous proverb in the Old Testament cautions, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).
Conversely, multiple references in the New Testament quote Jesus’s advice on the virtue of humility, “All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12).
Pride is defined as an excessive love of one’s own excellence. Pride, (the need for victory or to prove oneself) often blinds the most successful people in the world.
Unlike the healthy pride of self-affirmation, sinful pride disposes a person to think more of oneself than one ought to, with no recognition of or appreciation for the gifts one has received from God. The danger of pride is that it pushes God to the margins of one’s spiritual and moral existence; putting the prideful person at the center.
If God exists at all to the prideful person, it is only to gratify one’s ego and sense of importance. Pride causes a person to negate God and take all credit for one’s accomplishments.
Pride is also associated with the Father of All Lies; Satan (formerly known as the Angel Lucifer.) It was the sin of pride that led Lucifer, the most beautiful and perfect of God’s angels, to rebel against God and fall from heaven. Drawing upon the war in heaven described in the Book of Revelation, Lucifer unsuccessfully engaged in a battle with St. Michael the Archangel and was subsequently cast from heaven into his own domain by God after his defeat.
The other angels who joined his rebellion were likewise cast into a place where evil controls everything. The role of pride in both the fall of Satan and of Adam and Eve was particularly popularized in John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost.
The following illustrates how pride can take away the goodness in a person.
Many years ago, a successful lawyer from east Texas became so consumed in his insecurities and the intense need to prove himself over and over again that he simply gave up on everything else that was important to him. In his mind, he could never be good enough. He could never win enough cases. He could never obtain the approval of his demanding mother or his self righteous father,
Resentment and anger consumed him daily. He lost his desire to help other people who were in need.
But, God had other plans.
The boy from east Texas, who was always expected to take over the family’s oil refining business, finally let go of his intense need for victory after years of coveting worldly success, having no gratitude for the gifts God gave him, and fearing anything that would bring disgrace upon him or his family.
No one knows how he was able to let go of all the pressure and parental aspirations that were ingrained in him since his birth in Houston, Texas.
But, it did happen with God’s intervention.
With God leading his journey, he was able to see that life is very short, successes and failures are often forgotten about when a person passes away, and that his two daughters were more important than victory in a courtroom.
He finally learned that humility, not pride, was the key to peace, selflessness, and patience.
This humble man lived well into his 90’s and was blessed with many grandchildren, used his ability to reach out to others who were suffering from their own unhealthy pride, and fulfilled his duty to help others in need.
When he took his last breath on this Earth, he was considered to be “the jewel of east Texas.”