Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"On Pride" by C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis Narnia Christianity pride seven sins
Reading the works of this author made me rethink religion. I started with all of The Chronicles of Narnia and moved to his nonfiction. This is an essay from Mere Christianity, with parts cut out for a speech.
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"There is one vice which everyone is a victim, and of which hardly anyone ever imagine that they are guilty. I have heard people admit that they are bad-tempered, or that they cannot keep their heads about girls or drink, or even that they are cowards. I've hardly heard anyone who was not a Christian accuse himself of this. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.
I'm talking of Pride or Self-Conceit. In Christian teachings, it is the utmost evil. Unchastity, anger, greed, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil. Pride leads to every other vice. It is the complete anti-God state of mind.

Does this seem exaggerated? If so, think it over. It is said if you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, "How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or patronise me, or show off?"  The point is a person's pride is in competition with everyone else's pride. It's because I wanted to be the big noise at the party that I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise.

Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. If everyone were equal there would be nothing to be proud about. It’s the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once competition has gone, pride has gone. Almost all evils in the world which we blame to greed or selfishness are really far more the result of Pride.

In  God  you  come  up  against something which  is in every  respect immeasurably superior  to  yourself.  As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and as long as you are looking down, you can't see something that is above you.

That raises a terrible question. How is it that people who are quite obviously eaten up with Pride can say they believe in God and appear to themselves very religious? I am afraid it means they are worshipping an imaginary God. They theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of this phantom God, but are really all the time imagining how He approves of them and thinks them far better than ordinary people: that is, they pay a pennyworth of imaginary humility to Him and get out of it a pound's worth of Pride towards their fellow-men. 

I suppose it was of those people Christ was thinking when He said that some would preach about Him and cast out devils in His name, only to be told at the end of the world that He had never known them. And any of us may at any moment be in this death-trap. Luckily, we have a test. Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good - above all, that we are better than someone else - I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil. The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether.

Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.

If anyone would like to have humility, I think I can tell him the first step: realize that you are proud. That's a big step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed."

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