Fr. John Kadookunnel
We are continuing to climb the stepping stones to the mountain of pride as envisaged by St Bernard of Clairvaux. It all begins with sinful curiosity of mind, and moves from mental makeup, then to behaviour, which leads to the habit of slowly closing in oneself, heeding neither to others nor God.
7) Presumption: The theological virtue of hope is man’s confident expectation of divine blessing. It is also a respectful fear of offending God’s love and of incurring punishment. On the other hand when one thinks that no matter how he behaves or lives, one can avail of God’s almighty power or His mercy it is presumption. It is pride to presume that we have already accomplished our salvation and possess what we do not.
(8) Self-justification: Self-justification is the attitude that one will be able to save himself, through his own capacities without help from above. We say to ourselves that we do not need a saviour, nor His sacrifice on the cross. Instead of allowing God to judge us, we sit on the judgement seat to judge between what is right and what is wrong. The pride filled person thus justifies himself refusing to be accountable to God or others.
(9) Hypocritical confession: Having closed in oneself first, the prideful, now turn outwards, albeit with an attitude of falsehood. “Hypocrite” means “actor” in Greek. Such an attitude acknowledges faults and failings to seem humble and to gain acceptance socially. One can call oneself a sinner, yet have no repentance. In front of authorities or we put on a show of respect or submission to be in their good books, and then speak ill of them behind their back. Everything becomes a drama, and we act our role well so that we might go places.
(10) Open Revolt: A stage comes when all the acting to gain “social credit” before others turns to open revolt. In the next stage of pride, all the acting we were doing to get the applause of the audience is no more needed. We openly revolt against God or authorities. Till now one might have been going to the Church to please the society. Now one becomes a militant opponent of God. Or till now one was sycophant bent on pleasing his boss to gain his favour, now one openly revolts against his boss.
(11) Freedom to sin: At this stage, the prideful person has no more restraints. The last prick of conscience one has on doing something evil is no more. There is no remorse at all. This is freedom to sin. But this freedom to sin actually leads to slavery. Thus pride removes all inhibitions to sin.
(12) The habit of sinning: The final fruit of pride is habitual sin and slavery to sin. St. Augustine says “disordered lust springs from a perverted will; when lust is pandered to, a habit is formed, when habit is not checked, it hardens to compulsion (8.5.10). “Whoever sins is a slave to sin.” (Jn 8:34).
We note that the steps to the mountain of begins with sinful curiosity of mind. Mind thus becomes occupied with silly rather than serious matters. This leads frivolous behaviour, which in turn leads to self-glorification at the expense of others and God. The final blooming of pride is absolute slavery to sin.