The virus of pride: how to recognise it in us

The recommendations to fight against this terrible inclination can be frequently found in the Holy Scriptures.

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We begin the Special Series about vices. We defined what is a vice and why it can be so harmful for us. We will be showing the virtues necessary to fight against them. Today we will talk about pride


Pride is to feel an unorganised love for oneself, which leads a person to displease other and to be greater than them, attributing to themselves what belong to God.

In the Old Testament, the first manifestation of human pride appears during man’s attempt to be like God, found in Genesis, during the telling of the Fall. (Gn 3:1-13)

The betrayal of the creatures 

Eve agrees to eat the fruit from the forbidden tree, after the snake suggests that once eaten it will allow them “to be like gods” (Gn 3:5).

Later on, in the same sacred book, we see that men “impelled by self-pride, decide to build a tower that will touch the sky” (John Paul II, General Audience, Wednesday, 18th May 1983).

Recommendations to fight against this terrible inclination can be frequently found in the Holy Scriptures (Tb 4:14; Is 2:12,17).

In the book of Ecclesiasticus, it is written: “The first stage of pride is to desert the Lord and to turn one’s heart away from one’s Maker. Since the first stage of pride is sin, whoever climbs to it will pour forth filth.” (Si 10:12-13).

In the New Testament the Magnificat exclaims “he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts (Lk 1:51) and Jesus is faced with the hospitality of the Pharisees, whose faithlessness is fruit of their proud self-sufficiency, once these people live a life supported by and leaning solely on their own merits and rigorous following of the Law, the Lord warns “Anyone who raises himself up will be humbled” (Mt 23:12).

The ambition to take the Creator’s place

Pride leads people to put themselves in God’s place. 

Effectively Pope Francis calls it “the virus of pride virus” and says that it was this virus that contaminated the mind and heart of Judas Iscariot (General Audience, Wednesday 12th June 2019).

On the same line, the Catechism is affirmative when it declares that “hatred of God comes from pride” (par. 2094).

The misleading lie of the vain

Pride is the sin of Lucifer. With this, it is not difficult to recognise that the deepest fundamental aspect of pride is the lie, of which the devil is father of.

With effect, pride is nothing more than just an illusion, a misconception of oneself and of God. It is part of human desire to want to attribute to themselves something that does not belong to them.

Pride generates presumption, vainglory, arrogance, vanity, ambition, among other perversions.

Types of pride

There are various types of pride.

To name a few, we will consult Friar Maria-Eugênio of the Child Jesus, OCD, who in his work I want to see God, talks about pride for external qualities, desire and spiritual pride (all cited below and can be found in I want to see God – Part III, Chapter Four, B, II).

1 – Pride for external goods.

Friar Maria-Eugênio of the Child Jesus teaches us: “these qualities are all those that enforce honour and consideration towards external qualities and advances such as: beauty, fortune, name, class, honours.

These qualities are a simple façade, which can be a brilliant way – and we are very aware of this – to hide our internal poverty.

Therefore, we like to support the feeling of self-excellency and the requirements of honour and praise upon these qualities.

The world does not let itself be fooled by this, after having satisfied the requirements of the conventions, it reserves itself for the internal judgment of justice”.

The author makes it clear that this is the most foolish pride, but the least dangerous considering that it corresponds to an external reality, making it easier to break it with the light of humility.

2 – The Pride of desire.

“This pride which resides in the desire, nurtures itself from the qualities that desire finds in itself, of its independence, of its power to order and of its strength, of which it is aware of.

It is expressed by a refusal to submit itself to the established authority, an exaggerated confidence in itself and for a dominating ambition” says the Friar.

As we know the submission to God through his mediators, that is, the authorities that God himself places in our path. 

This kind of pride refuses to submit to God, turning it into terrible suffering. It puts all its trust in the power and effectiveness of its own efforts, forgetting the word of Jesus: “Without me, you can do nothing”.

3 – The Spiritual Pride.

Friar Maria-Eugênio explains that this pride is one of the most difficult to extirpate and that it does not belong in the path man who lives without God, but of the one who walks a path of holiness and has a spiritual life.

The author says:

“Spiritual pride does not only boast about its own works if it was only his own, but also of his spiritual privileges.

Belonging to a state, to a religious family that has great saints, that has a doctrine, a great influence, it is a nobility that creates obligations and can also feed a spiritual pride that sterilises and blinds in the face of the new manifestations of divine Mercy ”.

The Friar also stresses that this type of pride takes advantage of the gifts that the Holy Spirit pours to fill itself in a perverse way, this is by the work of the tempter.

Let us see his explanation: “The personal spiritual gifts can also be a source to feed pride.

The Efficacy of Prayer

The graces of prayer enrich the contemplative, leaving their profound mark on the soul, giving us a precious experience, strengthening the will, sharpening our intelligence, increasing the power of action, ensuring a powerful radiation to the spiritual.

These graces are always received in the humility they create and the gratitude they provoke. The light that accompanies disappears, its effects on the soul remain.

Warning signs of pride possibly present in us

We will mention here only a few attitudes that can serve as warning signs of pride dwelling in us.

It is important to make it clear that the cases we present here are not necessarily the result of an addiction to pride, since they can also be the result of weaknesses, limits, immaturities that are not in themselves sinful.

However, we highlight them so that we are able to evaluate ourselves based on them and thus recognize whether we have them or not, and then identify whether they are the result of the pride that dwells in us.

Remember that identification and recognition are the first steps towards change.

1- Self-sufficiency.

One of the signs of pride is self-reliance.

Pope Francis declares: “Proud people do not ask for help, they cannot ask for help because they have to be self-reliant. And how many of them need help, but pride prevents them from asking for help. And how difficult it is to admit a mistake and ask for forgiveness!” (Pope Francis, General Audience, Paul VI Room, Wednesday, February 5, 2020).

2- Reticence to correction.

The proud, attached to the illusory image they have of themselves, shy away from anything that highlights their imperfections (for themselves and for others, especially).

For example, when their masters or spiritual directors do not approve of their way and spirit, they who desire to be praised and admired, conclude that they are misunderstood, question the legitimacy of their superiors’ discernments and even doubt the spiritual authority they have. They have only illusory arguments to deceive themselves and to prevail their will, which has become indisputable.

Soon they will want to look for someone else who agrees with them, and who ultimately  allows them to do what they want.

This reticence to correction shows that their real goal in life is not growth or perfection, but praise and admiration.

3- Lack of interest in learning.

As we have seen, the proud do not seek growth, so they have no real interest in learning.

They believe that they know enough and do not think that other people can teach them something. This in relation to both knowledge and experience.

They do not venture into doing things they do not know, in order not to risk being humiliated or ridiculed, and they take refuge in doing only what they know they do well. All of this condemns them to a sad mediocrity.

It is possible to fight this evil

Let us do an examination of conscience and see if we present these “symptoms”, in order to recognise at what level we suffer from the great evil of pride.

Translation: Gabriela Gois


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