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Henry Fairlie on pride as arrogant individualism

St. Augustine – searching for a description of sin – chose the Latin phrase In curvatus in se, meaning to be curved in on oneself. Henry Fairlie does not use the phrase in connection with the first of the seven deadly sins, “pride or superbia.” Still, the description aptly summarizes the content of  Chapter 2 of his The Seven Deadly Sins Today (Notre Dame, 1978).

The meaning of pride

In our time, the word “pride” has mostly positive connotations. For example, I can say that I am very proud of my sons and their accomplishments. But Henry Fairlie rightly underscores the negative tones to the word, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “an unreasonable conceit of superiority” or “an overweening opinion of one’s own qualities” (Seven Deadly Sins, p. 39). This kind of pride has nothing to do with self-esteem and much to do with arrogance.

This is consistent with the Old Testament use of the term. It is because of “pride” that the wicked person does not seek God and has “no room” in his thoughts for God (Ps. 10:4). It is with “lying lips” accompanied by “pride and contempt” that the wicked speak “arrogantly” against the righteous (Ps. 31:18). Most famous of all OT passages on pride is Proverbs 16:18: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

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