Day 23: Pride

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is that of the Tower of Babel. As the story goes, humanity — all speaking the same language — gathered after Noah’s flood and embarked on building a tower to heaven. God, angry at their hubris, spread them across the earth and varied their language.

I love it because it’s so visual. The imagery of ancients building a tower to the heavens, rickety and unstable, is riveting.

But I often had trouble understanding the lesson in this story. As I understood it, we are to be conservative in our dreams. Yet no one thinks it’s a sin to shoot for the stars. So I didn’t get it.

Pride is the last of the Seven Deadly Sins, which is listed in the Book of Proverbs. I don’t think these sins carry any special powers, but rather they seem to broadly list virtually every error humans can make in our journey. Things like lust, gluttony and greed can easily be diagnosed as bad things. There are plenty of nursery rhymes and fables that illustrate how these things can lead us astray. But other than the Tower of Babel, pride is not illustrated too often. In fact, pride is a characteristic of the hero.

But as an adult — as a self-conscious, chip-on-his-shoulder adult — I’ve seen how pride can be destructive. It’s often hard to see in myself, but I see it in others — I see unfounded confidence, lies about competence and phrases that subtly promote one’s reputation one hair at a time. At best, it is unproductive, but at worst pride tells everyone around us that they aren’t good enough. And then pride begets pride.

As kids, it’s OK to not be good at something. Because you can believe you are good at other things. But as adults, we build much of our identity based on what we can and can’t do — what we have and haven’t done. And when we walk around destroying every else’s sense of self while trying to boost one’s ego, it is unpleasant and destructive.

… that turned quickly sermon-like.

I bring this up because I’m realizing that I hate being around people who are prideful. I’m learning how to choose the right people to be around. This is a note for next time.

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