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“Ask a Priest: Is Pride OK Sometimes?”
Q: Is there a situation where it is OK to be proud? I said to a mother, “You must be very proud of your daughter.” And maybe someone could be proud of achieving an award. I assume, though, that since pride is a vice and humility a virtue, it is better to err on the side of humility. How does pride lead to the other vices? Are the vices included somehow in with the Ten Commandments or are they separate sins? – P.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: There are different levels to your question that need to be addressed.
First is the word “proud.” It can have various shades of meanings.
There can be a kind of healthy pride in our accomplishments and in our families. The important thing is that we learn to give thanks to God for these gifts and to recognize that ultimately Our Lord is the reason for all the good things in our lives.
There is the unhealthy kind of pride, too, the type that leads a person to want to do everything “his way.”
Now, in the spiritual life there are three root vices: pride, vanity and sensuality. The glossary of the Catechism defines vice as “A habit acquired by repeated sin in violation of the proper norms of human morality. The vices are often linked with the seven capital sins. Repentance for sin and confession may restore grace to a soul, but the removal of the ingrained disposition to sin or vice requires much effort and self-denial, until the contrary virtue is acquired.”
So a vice is a bad moral habit. And like all habits, it makes things easier for us to do – or, in this case, it makes it easier for us to fall into the same mistakes repeatedly. Vices are externalized in our sins. A vice is a tendency that greases the path toward sin.
Basically, pride is where we put ourselves before God. Vanity is where we put the opinions of others ahead of God. Sensuality is where we put things and bodily comforts ahead of God.
Among these three, pride is the mother of all vices, in that in any sin we decide to put something or someone ahead of God.
In this sense pride underlies the offenses against all the Commandments. Pride leads us to see and judge things through our own point of view.
The problem is that our point of view is often wrong, thanks to original sin. Original sin darkens our intellect, weakens our will, and distorts our passions.
With darkened intellects we can make all kinds of mistakes. Worst, we start to dig in our heels, believing that we are the best judge in everything. All this can basically shut God out of our lives. For a proud person is a stubborn person.
The remedy for pride is humility. The glossary of the Catechism defines humility as:
“The virtue by which a Christian acknowledges that God is the author of all good. Humility avoids inordinate ambition or pride, and provides the foundation for turning to God in prayer. Voluntary humility can be described as ‘poverty of spirit.'”
The idea here is that God is the creator of all good things. The only thing that we are capable of on our own is sin.
If we can recognize that all good things come from God, that keeps us from being proud. We realize that our accomplishments (including our children) are ultimately not our doing, but God’s. That realization keeps us from getting a bloated opinion of ourselves.
Two practical ways to grow in humility are: 1) foster an attitude of gratitude toward God in prayer each day, and 2) be quick to attribute “our” successes to the Lord.
So if someone is told, “You have a fine daughter,” the person’s answer ideally should be something like, “Thank you, yes, God has indeed blessed me with a wonderful daughter.”
A resource that might help you is at https://rcspirituality.org/video/the-color-of-humility/.
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