"Your life is an occasion. Rise to it!" - Mr. Magorium

Monday, June 15, 2009

Pride and Hubris

In my previous entry I listed the seven deadly sins, which include the sin of pride. However, pride is often praised as a virtue. Why the disparity?

In its definition of "pride" Merriam-Webster gives us as choices for the meaning "inordinate self-esteem : conceit" and "a reasonable or justifiable self-respect" (among others). The word "hubris" they define as "exaggerated pride or self-confidence".

Because anything exaggerated isn't going to be reasonable or justifiable, I prefer to differentiate between justifiable self-respect and the sinful form of pride by using the term "hubris" for the latter. So, to rephrase something I said in my previous post, hubris has led us into wars.

I believe that almost all Americans are proud of their country. For many of us this pride is a reasonable or justifiable self-respect for the precedents our country set in its Declaration of Independence, its Constitution, and its Bill of Rights. Sadly, for many of us this pride takes the form of hubris that presumes our country is always right in its foreign affairs and the use of force to further its own ends.

Here I risk being condemned for not recognizing the humanitarian agenda of our nation's foreign policy. I would be the first to concede that the agenda of most of our military men and women around the world is indeed humanitarian. But government leaders throughout history have led people into wars by promoting a humanitarian agenda when an economic one existed thinly veiled from human view.

Our own civil war was fought on the moral issue of slavery. But it ultimately imposed the economic agenda of northern businessmen on the South, and the result was devastating for the South. Ironically, had the South been wise enough to abolish slavery on their own they might have spared themselves the economic misery. Without that moral agenda popular support for the war among northerners would have evaporated. As I've discussed in recent days, sin brings its own punishment.

The males of our species like to talk about what they think makes a "real man". I've always said a real man walks the fine line between self-confidence and arrogance, between justifiable self-respect and hubris. A female friend of mine said she believes that this also makes a "real woman". So I believe that we all need to be watching constantly to make sure we don't cross the line. I think this is an aspect of what Mary Baker Eddy meant when she wrote in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, "Stand porter at the door of thought."

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