The Seven Deadly Vices:

1. Pride versus Humility

by Don Schwager


"A man's pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor"

(Proverbs 29:23).

Pride is the root of all vice/sin and the strongest influence propelling us to sin. Gregory the Great charaterizes it as the sovereign of vices: "Pride, the sovereign of vices, when it has captured and vanquished the heart, forthwith delivers it into the hands of its lieutenants, the seven capital vices, that they may despoil it and produce vices of all kinds." Pride is rebellion -- the rejection of God's authority and plan, and the refusal to submit to God and accept his truth. In this sense pride is the root of all sin.

As a particular vice pride is an inordinate desire or love of one's own excellence. Through pride a person either thinks of himself or herself better than he is, or he thinks he can do things beyond his capability. Pride springs from an exaggerated self-centeredness. In pride a person makes self absolute and central, isolating self from God and others, or using others for the achievement of selfish purposes. Pride leads a person to sin in the pursuit of his own good. Excessive pride may move a person to steal in order to keep up his appearance, or to lie or cheat to better his own reputation. Pride can lead to all sorts of vices, notably presumption, ambition, vainglory, boasting, hypocrisy, strife, and disobedience. The proud person rebels against God and resists God's efforts to lead him back to virtue.

Humility, which is a person's recognition of his dependence on God and of his absolute need for submitting himself to God, is the only remedy for pride. Humility is true self-knowledge -- regarding oneself as God sees him. It is truth in self-understanding and truth in action. The humble person does not trust in his own strength, but in the power and love of God. True humility is a servant-like quality which enables one to place his life at the service of God and others. The modern notion of humility as feeling inadequate, inferior, incompetent, bad about yourself, or unneeded is unscriptural. True humility involves the readiness to place oneself at the disposal of others, to be a servant for others.

Examples from the scripture: Genesis 3 records the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden. They disobeyed God out of pride. Jesus, the second Adam, undid the curse of sin and death through his obedience and his humility in laying down his life for our sake. Paul in Philippians 2:8 says that Jesus "humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross."