The Problem of Pride

If you’ve been reading A Year with C.S. Lewis, the last several days have circled around pride, a subject that will continue through the week. “The Christians are right,” says Lewis, “it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.”

During Holy Week, our pride comes face-to-face with Jesus. Today’s naysayers pantomime an age-old sentiment: why does Jesus have to die? Why does God need a blood sacrifice to be assuaged? I’m a good enough person. I don’t need Jesus to do that.

Their questions are rooted in pride. Lewis names pride as, “the worst of all vices” because, “it comes direct from Hell.” It creeps into our religious life by the devil himself. He wants us to be secure in our own chasteness, our own bravery, our own self-control, our own holiness.

Lewis points out that the fall into pride is not simply the gravitation to want compliment. In fact, that type of vanity, he says, is a humble fault since it at least respects the value and need for pleasing others. Pride is trickier; it is more diabolical. The proud person wants no praise from others because, “‘Why should I care for the applause of that rabble as if their opinion were worth anything.'” And so, Lewis rightly points out, the devil replaces vanity with the greater fault of pride, “a spiritual cancer [that] eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.”

Why does God hate pride? “He is trying to make you humble in order to make this moment possible,” Lewis says, “trying to take off a lot of silly, ugly, fancy-dress in which we have all got ourselves up and are strutting about like the little idiots we are.”

God has fashioned us to be dependent on him, and as we value our independence due to our own merit and sense of worth we slowly drink the devil’s wine. In the end, we are asking the same questions of the naysayers because we just can’t see the point. We can’t understand because we’ve created our own world, where we are insular to a dying God who resurrects and asks us to touch his wounds, who leaves out on a cloud and says he’ll be coming back soon.

Holy Week is not only the remembrance of such events as if we can hold them at arms-length. It is the embrace of our need and the abandonment of our pride. Then, we can be reconciled with Sunday’s reading from Philippians 2: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing…”

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