Jane on Virtue

“And what would you say Mr. Darcy, would you consider pride a fault or a virtue?”

Continuing with Jane Austen month reflections, we must begin at the beginning. Pride.

Pride is considered a virtue in so many ways. We have pride for our country, pride for our home (name a sausage after it), pride in our work, etc. We take pride in our vehicle that we are driving, and pride in our children “My child is an honor student at ________” or soccer, gymnastics, football and baseball cling-ons advertising our childrens’ team. Aristotle would say these are virtuous presentations.  Although it would seem pride in a loved-one’s accomplishments is not truly pride unless we assume total credit for their work, which a friend once said about her childrens’ accomplishments “I don’t take credit, because then I must take blame!”

I decided to check out what Peter Kreeft would say in his book “Back to Virtue”. On page 97, he clearly states the Christian view of pride. “Pride is the greatest sin.” He goes on to say “It is the first and greatest sin because it is a violation of the first and greatest commandment, ‘You shall have no other gods before me’. Pride puts self before God.” Kreeft sites C.S. Lewis’ view of pride to kick off his argument about this great sin:

“There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.”

I think this is perhaps what Dr. Phil talks of (can’t believe I am referencing him) when I briefly heard a sound bite of him explaining this in other words. He was talking about our distaste for others’ behaviors being a mirrored version of our own self-loathing and said he likes to call it the syndrome of “There is something about that guy I don’t like about me.”

Ok; I am going to date myself here, but here are some examples of movie characters that might fit C.S. Lewis’ description:
1. Biff (Back to the Future)
2. Han Solo (only in the first movie; or is it the fourth movie? I have found this to be a great error in communication with my boys who are crazy for Star Wars)
3. The creepy guy who steals the Ark of the Covenant in the first Indiana Jones movie (okay, again, the first one made) and his face melts off at the end because he made the mistake of thinking he was maybe God.
3. Just about every character in the movie “The Godfather”, which my husband loves and I can barely watch five minutes of any more.

So we get the point, right? Well, I gather if I went into examples with modern television shows, it would be an unending rant of names and characters, because with “mean” being the new funny, smart or interesting, it seems as though no one nice can join the party (unless he is the pathetic loser character that everyone loves to roll their eyes at).

So how do we bring pride into view in our own life? Perhaps begin with the right questions for meditation:
1. Do I put myself before God? Do I put playing Bejewled before praying time? (Oops, did I write that?)
2. Do I look down on others? Think I always know best?
3. Do I have a hard time when I am not in control of a situation?
4. Do I think I am to thank for my own successes? Do I often resent others or the past, or anything that may seek to steal the power and glory “due to me”? 

Pride is not to be confused with vanity. According to Kreeft, vanity contains elements of humility because you want or need someone else’s approval of you. If you seek for someone to like you, approve of you, or you are a people-pleaser, you are not likely to be over-run with pride.

Pride is competitive, looks down on others, lusts for power, and may say things like “my will be done” instead of “Thy Will be done”.

They say lust is the widest path to Hell, but pride is the deepest trench. The complicated thing about pride is that we are so deeply entrenched in it that we don’t even see it is a problem for us. Let us spend five minutes today examining our conscience and asking where pride has deceived us. Right now, name five beautiful things in your life and thank God for them. Tell the Lord “These things are in my life because of your grace and love. Thank you Lord. Help me seek to put YOU first in my life.”

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