Pride was the first sin committed. It was the sin of Lucifer. It was also the root of the Original Sin committed by Adam and Eve.
Pride is the greatest of sins because it is the summit of self-love and is directly opposed to submission to God. It is, therefore, the sin most hated by God, and the one He punishes most severely. The punishment of the Angels, of Adam and Eve, of Nabuchodonosor, related in the Book of Daniel (4:27-30), bear witness to this.
Pride is likewise the greatest sin because it is the fountainhead of the self-love in which all other sins take root: "From pride all perdition took its beginning." (Tob. 4:14). There is a species of pride in every sin, whatever may be the individual nature of the sin itself.
Pride is the most dangerous of sins, because it blinds our understanding, and unless something finally makes us realize the truth, we are liable to go on, day after day, in a spiritual self-delusion, imagining our acts to be good and virtuous when certain habits actually may be vicious. When we are blinded by pride, we do not consider our talents and abilities as God's gifts to us, but attribute our good qualities to ourselves, with the right to use them as we see fit.
Everybody is infected with the virus of pride! But there is a particular kind of pride in each individual; at least a particular kind dominates, though there may be several of its viruses in the same character. This pride determines our temperament or our type of character, or at least is intimately related to it. Searching into our type of pride is very important for obtaining a true knowledge of ourselves, and for making fruitful efforts to root out sin and vice from our life.
If we are of a sanguine temperament, our pride takes the form of self-centeredness. We want to be the "hub of the wheel"; we want others to notice us. We are touchy and easily offended. Our pride goads us to seek fame, praise, and admiration. We fall into vainglory.
If we have a choleric temperament, our pride is manifested in a strong self-will. We find it hard to submit to others or to yield to their opinions. We are often overbearing, critical, given to arguing, inflated with a sense of superiority, inconsiderate of the rights of others.
If we are melancholic, our pride conceals itself under the garb of self-pity and over sensitiveness. Resentment, harboring grudges, suspicion, and unexpressed hostility are included in it. Often this pride is not recognized for what it is because it conceals itself as such, so we do not confess it as pride.
If we have a phlegmatic character, our pride includes us to self-complacency and vanity. We are likely to be shocked by faults in others, but quite satisfied with our own selves.
Pride of superiority makes us want to control the lives of others, to impose ourselves on them, to "domineer" over them. It makes our will rigid and unbending when others assert authority.
It is a self-will and obstinacy that sets us against the will of God, opposes our neighbor and makes us inflexible in carrying out the dictates of our own self-love. Anger, indignation, arrogance, the spirit of contradiction and haughtiness are some of its offspring. This pride is usually rooted in a strongly opinionated mind, which makes us refuse to see the light of reason or the truth evidenced by principles of revealed Faith. This unwillingness actually fosters ignorance. It is the pride which keeps many from entering the Church, or returning to the practice of the Faith when they have fallen away.
Closely connected with this kind of pride–or perhaps we should say another name for it–is the pride of independence. This leads us to disobedience and insubordination, to contempt and arrogant contradiction, to refusal of advice and assistance, to resentment of reproof by lawful authority, to blasphemy against God, bitter cursing, oaths and irreverences in word and act.
Delusions in regard to our own defects, self-conceit, attributing to ourselves our good qualities of mind, of person or of fortune–rather than to God, reveal pride of intellect. Sins against Faith arise from this pride.
The pride of ambition leads us to seek positions or offices of honor and dignity by which we prefer ourselves to others, however worthy they may be. It makes us dream up schemes and projects, and undertake things through presumption, even when we are ignorant of how to go about them. Excessive confidence makes us overestimate our abilities. Immoderate desires, vainglory, the desire for praise, ostentation and the immoderate use of necessities of life in order to be more highly thought of, stem from this pride. It leads to flattery and hypocrisy.
We may have a pride of spiritual vanity, imagining ourselves to be perfect and our acts always virtuous or finding a thousand reasons to diminish their gravity or excuse our faults when we do acknowledge them.
Our pride may dress itself in the guise of naturalism, in which case we practice no restraint in our behavior, no modesty in our language, no respect in our obedience; we are deceitful in our humility, caustic in our conversation, inveterate in our hatred, a foe to submission, greedy of power, desirous of supplanting others, indolent in action and work. We act through impulse and meddle in the affairs of others. We wish to know everything through unrestrained curiosity. We like to be always talking, even of what we do not understand.
We may have a pride which makes us cynical. If so, we speak sarcastically and use cutting words. We ridicule others, scold and misjudge them.
Pharisaical pride leads us to boastfulness and to criticism of others. It makes us over talkative; it leads to lies and contradictions; to esteeming high birth or social rank above virtue. Haughtiness of manner, disdaining to associate with those we believe to be inferior, arises from it. It manifests itself by a legalism in our actions, causing us to fulfill our duties without spirit, but with hypocrisy.
Our pride may hide itself in sensitiveness, or self-pity. In this case we are over-anxious about what others think of us. We brood over imagined wrongs and do not easily forgive others. Closely linked to this form of pride is the pride of timidity, which stems from unreasonable fear. It makes us fearful of others' opinions, so that we cater to human respect. Under its impulse we fail to act when we should, because a groundless fear holds us in the bonds of a spiritual sloth that paralyzes our efforts and makes us incapable of determination, and so we let opportunities pass by unused.
The pride of scrupulosity fixes our attention on wrong things, so that we pay exclusive attention to what does not merit such attention, while we are unscrupulous in things which ought to concern us.
Our pride may be centered on our wealth and prosperity, our station in life, our fine clothes, our wit, beauty or strength. It may even grow out of our piety and good morals, as indicated by some of the above groupings.
Pride can ruin all the virtues and draw us into all kinds of disorders. The proud person is capable of any sin. "Pride goeth before destruction; and the spirit is lifted up before a fall." (Prov. 16:18). Therefore it is most necessary in the spiritual life to fight this vice in whatever guise it presents itself. If we permit it to enter our heart, the germs of all the vices enter with it, and we soon find ourselves a slave of Satan. We must beware of being ensnared by it, for the end of the proud, unrepentant sinner, as revealed by God, is the everlasting fire of Hell, in company with the demons.