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The Four Types of Pride

Sacred Scripture speaks of pride as one of the two primary roots of sin. Various Catholic theologians and writers have seen it as one of the greatest sins, for it gives birth to many other evil impulses. St. Thomas Aquinas and Pope St. Gregory the Great called pride “the queen of all vices.”

Pride is an inordinate love of one’s own inflated sense of superiority, a love of one’s own worth, an exaggerated assessment of one’s talents, or attribution to oneself of talents that one doesn’t have. It is a self-exultation that makes you think you are better than others, and, in so doing, you belittle others. It is an inordinate desire for self-esteem, which flows from a sense of self-importance and selfsufficiency. St. Robert Bellarmine tells us, “Pride is a sin because a man reckons that he is more than he really is, thus, he wishes to be put ahead of others and cannot suffer one to be higher than him or equal to him.”

Deep down the essence of the sin of pride is a turning away from God to yourself, thus making yourself into a little god. It often manifests itself in a refusal to submit to others. As such, it puts you in league with Satan, for pride was the sin that banished him from God’s presence and plunged him into hell. Lucifer, whose name means “light bearer,” should have been satisfied that he was the greatest and most beautiful of all creatures that God had created, but it wasn’t enough for him; he yearned to sit on God’s throne himself and have all of creation worship him. Thus, we can readily see why all sins of pride are a sharing in Satan’s primal sin.

Pope St. Gregory the Great lists four types of pride:

(a) thinking that you are the source of your own excellence;

(b) thinking that your gifts come from God but are a result of your efforts;

(c) presuming a self-importance that is unwarranted;

(d) despising other people while at the same time claiming that your gifts belong to you alone.

Some sins result primarily from weakness (e.g., lust) or disordered desires for things that in themselves are good (e.g., food). But pride resides in the will of the individual: “I think that I am better than others.” It plays a role in other sins, directly or indirectly, because you judge yourself worthy of this or that disordered desire or pleasure. (Note that the desire itself could be legitimate and so not “disordered” in and of itself, but the extent of your desire for it could be excessive and, thus, disordered.) And because pride is a sin of the will, it is at its root a sin of malice. Such sins are not committed out of weakness of the passions, which clouds your judgment, but from the will to do it because you want to.

This article is taken from a chapter in the Manual For Conquering Deadly Sin by Fr. Dennis Kolinski, which is available from TAN Books.



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