The War Against Pride

 Prophet Isaiah

Prophet Isaiah

My beloved spiritual children in Our Risen Lord and Our Only True God and Savior Jesus Christ,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

THE VIRTUE OF HUMILITY AND THE PASSION OF PRIDE: The War against Pride
by Saint Silouan the Athonite

In order to wage war one must first identify the enemy. This is one reason why the war against pride is such a great struggle. The passion of pride, which is basically abnormal self-love, is not easily recognized in oneself. Saint Siluan states this quite clearly, "Pride is difficult to detect in oneself..." "No mortal", according to Saint Silouan, can accord his life with the Gospel in all its strength. However much we strain, the commandment in its perfection remains out of reach...There is no absolute perfection on this earth, and it is dangerous to be satisfied with what we have attained."

In fact, it is easier and perhaps more convenient to find the pride in others than it is in oneself. Most are not aware of the extent of their pride and excessive self-love. It dominates their attitude and dealings with others, as well as their social conduct in general. Those who overlook the pride in themselves may assume that they are humble, whereas those who consider themselves as humble may be led to become proud of their virtue of humility. In either case, the passion of pride blurs the vision of one's true self and hides one's genuine motivations. Saint John Climacus confirms this, "It happens, I do not know how, that most of the proud never really discover their true selves. They think they have conquered their passions and they find out how poor they really are only after they die" (St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent 23, p. 210).

The passion of pride must be considered first in its sociological context, or more accurately in its 'communal' setting, since pride presupposes the existence of others. Pride feeds off of other people in order to set the 'self' apart from and against the 'other'. In this sense the war against pride is not simply directed against oneself but more precisely against the over-inflated and abnormal attachment to one's name, reputation or position within a particular community.

However, on another level, the passion of self-love may also be seen as a pathological disorder. Psychology refers to the condition of this extreme self-obsession as narcissism. (See Encyclopedia of Psychology, vol. 2, pp. 3306-307). In such cases one's life is directed by such a degree of acute self-admiration, whether it is of one's own physical, intellectual or even spiritual attributes, that the individual becomes indifferent to the needs and well-being of those around him. One's first and foremost orientation is so focused upon one's 'self' that he isolates and cuts himself off from true personal communion with other people. Others, instead of being those for whom and among whom one lives and finds his true personhood, are seen rather as objects mainly used to elicit the attention and approval which are so vital to confirm one's own self-admiration.

For the proud, and in extreme cases the narcissistic individual, the thought of denying or emptying oneself out of love for others is inconceivable. He actually separates himself form others since he is ultimately unable to love anyone other than himself. Pride may thus be said to lead to the 'de-personalization' of one's true self, since it severs the very communion that is so fundamental to the ontology of the human person. In the pathological sense, the individual 'self' is that which sets itself over and against others. According to Orthodox Christian theology, however, the 'self' is that which is to be subdued and denied so that the true 'person' my live for and in a communion of love with other persons.

If, as Saint Siluan says, it is so difficult to recognize the passion of pride in oneself, how then is one supposed to detect this mortal yet unseen enemy? Saint Silouan offers guidelines which the believer may use to determine if, and to what extent, he is infected. For example, he writes that one sign of pride is the persistence of intrusive thoughts: "Evil thoughts afflict the proud soul, and until she humbles herself she knows no rest from them." He also mentions that if someone 'watches other people' in order to criticize their actions or to compare himself with them, this is also proof of the presence of pride.

However, even though one recognizes that he is in fact suffering from the passion of pride, the battle is far from over; indeed it only just begins. It is difficult to detect self-love in oneself, it is even more difficult to overcome it. Saint Silouan speaks from his own personal experience, "The hardest thing of all is to subdue the flesh for God's sake, and overcome self-love. (Source: Orthodox Spiritual Life according to Saint Silouan the Athonite by Harry Boosalis)

(To be continued)

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CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!

ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!

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"Glory To Be GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom

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With sincere agape in Our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George