C.S. Lewis on Pride

better“According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride.  Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.

Does this seem exaggerated?  If so, think it over.  I pointed out a moment ago that the more pride one had, the more one disliked pride in others.  In fact, if you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, ‘How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronize me, or show off?’  The point is that each person’s pride is in competition with every one else’s pride.  It is because I wanted to be the big noise at the party that I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise.  Two of a trade never agree.  Now what you want to get clear is that Pride is essentially competitive - is competitive by its very nature – while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak, by accidentPride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.  We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good looking, but they are not.  They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better looking than others.  If everyone became equally rich, or clever, or good looking there would be nothing to be proud about.  It is the comparison that make you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest…

The Christians are right: it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.  Other vices may sometimes bring people together: you may find good fellowship and jokes and friendliness among drunken people or unchaste people.  But pride always means enmity – it is enmity.  And not only enmity between man and man, but enmity to God…

Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, swarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody.  Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily.  He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.

If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step.  The first step is to realize that one is proud.  And a biggish step too.  At least, nothing whatever can be done before it.  If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.”

- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity: “The Great Sin.”