“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” — Proverbs 16:18
“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”
— Proverbs 16:18
The above passage, in an abbreviated version, is a popular admonition to people who are too full of themselves.
However, in a country whose anthem trumpets “what so proudly we hailed,” we often pride ourselves on our national pride.
Yet, as the biblical quotation indicates, this is somewhat at odds with a fundamental Judeo-Christian teaching.
In fact, earlier in that same chapter of Proverbs we find, “Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord.” That can’t be good.
So, can we be proud of our accomplishments without risking eternal damnation?
Welcome to a word person’s exploration of the “seven deadly sins.”
Before I go on, here’s a disclaimer: I’m no biblical scholar, and I don’t wish to show preference for any particular sect’s point of view. I’ve gleaned my information from several sources that appear to be reliable.
One of the things I found a bit surprising is that there’s no passage in the Bible that says anything close to “here are the seven deadly sins.” Rather, the concept, along with many others, has grown out of interpretations by various church leaders.
The list of the deadly (or “capital” or “mortal”) sins, in contrast with “venial sins,” has been around in some form since about 400 years after the time of Jesus.
The deadly sins — pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, gluttony and lust — were so-called because they could have fatal consequences for the soul.
I’m starting with “pride” because it traditionally has been considered the worst of the lot. In fact, “pride” has been offered as the reason Eve ate the forbidden fruit and the reason Lucifer was ousted from heaven. So that gives it the leading role in “original sin” and the creation of Satan, whose poll numbers have been among the worst in history.
So, what does “pride” mean?
In the hierarchy of Webster’s New World College Dictionary, the first entry for “pride” consists of two parts: “an unduly high opinion of oneself; exaggerated self-esteem; conceit” and “haughty behavior resulting from this; arrogance.”
However, all the other definitions are upbeat — “self-respect”; “delight or satisfaction” in achievements or associations; “the best of a class, group, society, etc.” — or neutral — “a group or family (of lions).”
The noun arose from the adjective “proud,” which traces back to the Latin verb “prodesse,” meaning “to be of value” or “to be useful.” Those are undeniably positive qualities.
Webster’s also offers these gradations beyond pride:
“Conceit” — “always implies an exaggerated opinion of oneself, one’s achievements, etc.”
“Vanity” — “suggests an excessive desire to be admired by others for one’s achievements, appearance, etc.”
“Vainglory” — “implies extreme conceit as manifested by boasting, swaggering, arrogance, etc.”
“Self-esteem” — “implies a high opinion of oneself, often higher than is held by others.”
Perhaps the lesson is that a little pride goes a long way.
Next week: More sinful reading.
Contact Barry Wood at email@example.com or read his blog at blogs.e-rockford.com/woodonwords/.