In considering the seven deadly sins, one we didn’t touch on is pride. Somehow, it seems less serious than the other sins. After all, nobody ever died as a result of someone else’s pride. Nobody ever had food taken out of their mouths because of someone’s pride. As a result, it seems hard to include it in the same list of deadly sins, even with our more nuanced understanding. Ironically, I believe that pride is in fact one of the worst of the sins and one of the hardest to struggle against.
According the to Bible, Jesus was once asked which one of the commandments was the greatest of all. In typical fashion, Jesus outwitted his questioners and rather than picking one of the ten commandments, he pointed to his own. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul” was the greatest commandment according to Jesus. That commandment, according to him, was followed only by what many call the golden rule: love your neighbor as yourself.
If we consider sin and morality in the way we have been discussing it here, Jesus’s commandments fit right in. With his first commandment, Jesus was telling us to strongly establish that connection with the almighty. He was telling us to open ourselves up to the connection to all other living beings.
My twenty-year old daughter, who has been going through her own spiritual crisis, is bothered by the fact that we are supposed to worship and praise God. Why would an all-powerful being need positive affirmations from us? So goes her thinking. But we need to think of loving God, praising God, worshipping God all within the context of opening ourselves up to the connection that is the almighty. Again, we are limited by our inability to express certain spiritual concepts with our limited human language. The reason we worship, praise, love, pray, meditate — or however you want to express it — is to open ourselves up to the almighty. We do these things not because God needs our approval. We do these things because we need to make the effort to connect with God.
In remaining humble, we can accept our place as part of the almighty. We can understand that we are simply one part of the almighty connected to all other living beings through God. We have already established that ego is the expression of ourselves that stands in the way of us connecting with God. Pride is actually the purest expression of our ego, and it creates an insurmountable obstacle for us to connect with God.
Think about it. Being humble means you can accept that you are part of something much greater than you — the almighty. Being prideful, however, separates you from the almighty. It is the ego expressing that you are somehow more important on your own than as part of the almighty. Being prideful is expressing “I am important.” Being humble is to understand that “I am important because I am part of something much greater than myself.”
Being humble doesn’t diminish your value. Self esteem is still important. In some respects, being able to look at the world with humility actually increases your value. You as a part of the almighty, something that connects all living beings, is far more valuable than you standing on your own. Poor self-esteem often results from a sense that you are not loved. But understanding your place in the almighty helps you to see that through your connection to God, you are loved. There is a place for you, and you have a unique and important role to play as part of the almighty.
Pride closes you off to that connection, however. Pride is not self-esteem. Often, pride is an expression of poor self-esteem. The most prideful people are usually people trying to convince themselves of their own value. Ironically, in trying to convince themselves of their own value through their pride, they are actually closing themselves off from the connection to the almighty that can bring real comfort, self-esteem and opportunities for learning.
Thus when Jesus said that we need to love God above all else, he was saying that we need to remain humble and open to the almighty. He was saying that we cannot place ourselves above God with our pride. Instead we need to make an effort to connect with God. And the reason to do this is not for God’s benefit, but for our own.
The other six deadly sins fit squarely within Jesus’s second greatest commandment — loving your neighbors as yourself. Jesus was clearly stating what we discussed before: that you are to be unselfish, and that by loving others you are opening yourself up to the connection to others that is the almighty. However Jesus also placed this effort second in importance to opening yourself up to God, to making an effort to become aware of your connection to the almighty. On the one hand, we can experience the connection with others on a practical level through our relationships with them. But more importantly, we can only grow to spiritual maturity when we can transform the skills we learn through our relationships with other people into an understanding of our connection to God.