The Seven Deadly Sins aren’t much talked about these days. For that matter, neither is sin in general. It’s all feel-good, do your own thing, and just don’t hurt anyone’s feelings, especially if they’re a member of some anointed group that has been officially declared to contribute to “diversity.”

Killing unborn children? Just fine, so long as you don’t embarrass everyone by messy talk about souls, or say dumb things such as “all human beings, born, and unborn, are made in the image of God and hence entitled to the same dignity and protection as you and I.” Sorry, I got diverted from my general topic of sin, and our increasing lack of sensitivity to the entire notion that when we sin we increase our separation from God.

Getting back to the Seven Deadlies, we used the mnemonic “PEWSLAG.” And here are the biggies:

  • pride
  • envy
  • wrath
  • sloth
  • lust
  • avarice
  • gluttony.

The list condenses dramatically into a single vice: pride, which, pardon the pun, has pride of place among the Deadlies. C.S. Lewis wrote that “Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”

We are taught, in school and by our parents, to take pride in our accomplishments. There’s nothing wrong with knowing that you have run the good race, and done the best you can. And, frankly, to be proud in this sense is not a bad thing.

Where it gets dicey is when we let that pride in our accomplishments trick us into believing that everything we do or say is golden merely because we did or said it. Not for reasons of intrinsic worth; no, because it was our precious little selves that were the author. We’ve seen some of this in this political season, and Lord only knows that you must have quite a full sense of yourself to believe that you should be the president of the United States.

We also need to be quite careful to avoid an excess of humility. Humility, the polar opposite of pride, you say? Yes, verily. Who among us does not know a churchman or congregant who is so humble, so giving, so kindly, as to make you want to hurl? When asked, what are you proudest of, you’re likely to get some pious answer about how many novenas were said or how much they’ve given to the poor or how they just can’t talk just now because there are always people who need me…

You get the drift. Not that we should not be giving and kind and pray lots and lots. All good things. But shut up and do those good things; never talk about doing them. Besides, I don’t know about you, but I like human beings. With flaws; with sins; with some pride in their accomplishments. Why do I like people who are sinners? Simple. Because I’m one also.

I can be humble, but it’s tough, because I’ve just got sooo many great qualities. All right, some great qualities. Even the least of us has something that they should take pride in; some gift from God that has enabled them to survive another day or excel in some way. Those who are always wearing the hair shirt and proclaiming “I’m not worthy” are committing false humility, what I would label pride squared: (pride)2 in algebraic terms.

Among politicians, there’s always that false humility, and you can usually tell when they start with the “I am a great sinner” routine. Except they never use the correct wording; rather, they’ll refer to some policy they signed on to that they now regret, or simply sing mea culpa over and over again to some interest group that claims to have been aggrieved by the politico in the past.

Can’t win with ye, can we, John Luke. Yes, you can — when you confess your sins, do so in private, as in praying (Matthew 6:6). Go to our Father in humble supplication; no one else but you and He. Confess your sins, and, besides God, only you truly know what they are. Ask forgiveness, and do your level best to be of changed mind. In other words, repent.

Confession. In private, between you and God. Repentance. Tell no one else; go and live a better life. That’s humility.


One comment

  1. […] written on this before (e.g. here, and here), but here is a passage from St. John that summarizes it in God’s terms. Which I […]

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