Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Satanic Sin

It's Virtue & Vice Wednesday!  

Last week, the debut post in this series was about humility, the foundation of all virtue.  It seems only fitting that the root of all vices, the very opposite of humility, should follow this week. 

This week's vice is indeed the most serious vice.  In fact, this vice is so grave that is has the dishonor of being first in the series of what is commonly referred to as the seven mortal or deadly sins.  

This one takes the crown precisely because it's the Satanic sin.

Let's talk about Satan.  He has many names (Lucifer, devil, accuser, evil one, enemy, serpent, dragon) and they all point to one and the same reality.  In the very beginning, he was a great and magnificent angel.  Created by God, he was--naturally--good.  

Yet, to be great and magnificent wasn't quite enough.  To dwell in heaven and to rejoice over his Creator didn't satisfy him.  Satan desired more: he wanted to be like God.  

Imitation is the best form of flattery, right?  What is so inherently evil about wanting to be like God?  Here's the fault: Satan sought to be like God according to his own merit.  He was going to do it himself, through the force of his own nature alone, rejecting the grace of God.  Remember that phrase?  If it's meant to be, it's up to ME!

And thus we find the root of all vice: pride.

Pride, by definition, is an inordinate esteem of oneself--inordinate specifically because it's not a truthful evaluation of self.  Humility, if you remember, is all about truth.  It only follows that it's opposite--pride--is all about lies.  

With that in mind, it makes perfect sense that one of Satan's titles is "father of lies."  He's been whispering his untruths all throughout history, beginning with that seductive falsehood to Eve, " will be like God."

He's still whispering them today, to you and to me.

Pride is the gateway sin, opening up the floodgates to all kinds of other vices.  This is because pride convinces a person that he or she is above the rules.  Once the commandments and moral teachings don't apply to you, you can rationalize any kind of immoral behavior.

Pride especially leads to presumption, vanity, hypocrisy, and disobedience.  Like Miss Piggy, who can't take her eyes off her own beauty and perfection, pride makes us so caught up with ourselves, we can't see God.  

Just as worse, pride is deceptively hard to detect, making it particularly dangerous.  Yet, when you really analyze it, you can spot pride underlying every sin.  

For example, the other day Chris and I were having a chat about things we needed to accomplish over the weekend.  Instead of offering helpful suggestions, I found myself bossing him and basically telling him what he needed to do and when.  

Bossiness is pride: I thought I had the best knowledge and understanding of the situation--better than Chris--to direct his activities.  And, of course, this was a lie.

Pride can manifest itself as perfectionism, in the desire to be perfect in order to prove oneself and receive subsequent honor.

A desire for control, whether directing one's own life or that of one's adult child, is pride at work.

You can spot pride in wanting to have the final say in a conversation or finding a way to always redirect the course of the conversation back to yourself.

Having difficulty asking for or receiving forgiveness--that's also pride.  

Finding fault with others is pride, too, because you deem your own thoughts/ actions/words better than your neighbor's...or, at least you consider yourself high enough to be a capable judge of another. 

You are in the midst of an argument and immediately rush to your defense before the other even has a chance to fully explain his or her position.  Yes, you guessed it: that's pride.

But pride is especially grave, deadly even, when a person is unwilling to acknowledge his or her dependence on God and refuses to submit to God's authority.

As professor and prolific writer Peter Kreeft aptly says, "The national anthem of Hell is 'I did it my way.'"

Here's a homework assignment.  At the end of the day today, consider ways in which you may have fallen into sin.  Once you've done that, focus on each sin and ask yourself how pride was operative in that circumstance.  Unmasking pride and the ways you fall prey to it is a good step in resisting this dangerous vice.

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