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Too Much of a Good Thing? Defining the Sin of Pride

We all try to avoid sin, but sometimes it is hard to determine wrongdoing from healthy behavior. A listener named Fred asks Father Dave, “I’m having trouble wrapping my head around the sin of pride…is [the sin] all pride or just too much pride?” Fred expresses his pride in his work and family, and wonders if that could be considered sinful.

Father Dave first offers context saying, “If we look to some of the great theologians of the Church, like for instance, St. Thomas Aquinas, he would have framed it as that almost every characteristic in life [exists] on a spectrum.” Father Dave expands on this, saying how we don’t want to have too much or too little pride.

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He also notes that not all definitions of pride, such as being proud of your child, are sinful. But Father Dave says the kind of pride we should avoid is “excessive belief in one’s own abilities that interferes with your recognition of the grace of God.” He gives an example saying, “That’s how Satan tempts Adam and Eve in the garden. He says, ‘if you eat this fruit, you’ll be just the same as God. You’ll know everything God knows, and you’ll be able to do everything God does.’ Who of us wouldn’t be tempted by that?”

Father Dave reassures Fred saying, “You said, ‘I’m proud of my God-given gifts and how he’s allowed me to use them in this job.’ That’s not putting yourself above God.” He also says how we can mischaracterize humility in a similar way.

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Humility is not the same as saying, ‘Oh, don’t worry about me. I’m nothing, I think of myself as low,” Father Dave says, “Humility is recognizing my gifts, yet realizing that they are from God, and that I owe them back to God.” He cites the “Parable of the Talents” in the Gospel of Matthew and says, “The whole point is that I use these and grow these [talents] for God’s great glory, so that they may give back to God.”

He relates this back to Fred’s question of pride and says, “When we put so much stock in our own abilities, that’s wrong. But it is also [wrong] when we don’t take advantage of a gift that God has given us.”

Originally published on September 20, 2022.