What is It OK to be Proud Of?

Image“It is shameful to be proud of the adornments that are not your own, but utter madness to fancy one deserves God’s gifts. Be exalted only by such achievements as you had before your birth. But what you received after your birth, as also birth itself, God gave you. Only those virtues which you have obtained without the co-operation of the mind belong to you, because your mind was given to you by God. Only such victories as you have won without the co-operation of the body have been accomplished by your efforts, because the body is not yours, but a work of God.” – Saint John Climacus

Editor note: the things we call “male pride”, “civic pride”, “national pride”, “personal pride” are all covers for things forbidden by authentic Christianity. You do find the sort of ‘victory’ ‘armies of god’ ‘triumphant’ megachurch insane power-mongering out there that makes of pride a religion – a religion cut almost wholly from the cloth of that grievous passion. But that is to Christianity what KFC is to Chicken, or MTV is to Music. The Orthodox Mind is forbidden all forms of pride, just as it is forbidden the fiction of “righteous anger” and all other forms of “virtuous sin” and “righteous unrighteousness” and “bullshit truth”. We are forbidden to turn the temptations of Christ into the virtues of the Christian, and any “Christianity” that does so is an abomination, besides not being that which Christ himself founded and has never ceased to preserve intact.

A Faith that can’t grapple with the actual teachings of the Church might be a cultural icon, a revered institution, in an NPR kind of way, but it’s still not Christian. Christianity is far more challenging than that. It doesn’t leave us all right in the main areas of our lives and just clean up our ethics a little bit. It’s not primarily a religious philosophy. It’s an ascetic war. It transforms the things we *most* want to protect. It casts down the established pillars of our culture that we consider most authentic and to be believed. That which we are most prone to wink at. That which we think is so “traditional” that it has to be accepted. That is the idol to be destroyed by the One who is before the ages, and the tradition that is older than our oldest institutions.

Humility is Speed

The more we humble ourselves in painful repentance, the more rapidly our prayer reaches God. When, though, we lose humility, no ascetic striving will help us. The action in us of pride, criticism of our brethren, self-exalting and hostility towards our neighbor, thrusts us away from the Lord. – unknown

scarcely escaping the Judgment

Abba Orsisius said, “If an unbaked brick is put in the foundations near the river, it does not last for a single day, but baked, it lasts like stone.

the man with a carnal disposition of soul, who has not been in the fire through fear of God like Joseph, utterly disintegrates when he accepts a position of authority. For many are the temptations of those who live among men. It is good for those who know their limitations to avoid the weight of being in charge of anything; but those who are firm in faith remain unmoved.

If anyone wished to speak of the great saint Joseph he would have to say that he was not worldly. How greatly he was tempted in that place where there had not yet been any trace of devotion towards God. But the God of his Fathers was with him and he delivered him out of all his trouble and now he is with his Fathers in the Kingdom of Heaven. Let us, therefore, know our limitations and let us fight; even so we shall scarcely escape the judgment of God.” — The Desert Fathers


“I prefer a sinful person, who knows his faults and is humbled, over a self-complacent person of virtue.” – Abba Sarmatias

To be Dead to the World

A desert father was teaching his disciple about humility. He told the young man to spend the day in the cemetery and to yell insults at the graves. The young monk then spent the day hurling rebukes and insults at the dead. The next day, the abba told him to spend the day praising the dead, and the monk proceeded to do so. At the end of the day the abba asked the monk how the dead reacted to being insulted and how they responded to praise. The monk replied that they evidenced no reaction at all to either. The abba then told the young monk that when he can show the same reaction as the dead to praises and insults, he will have learned humility. [source unknown]

Because I have walked in great pride

“And he answered me, saying, The most High has made this world for many, but the world to come for few. . . . For as the husbandman sows much seed upon the ground, and plants many trees, and yet the thing that is sown good in his season does not come up, nor does all that is planted take root: it’s just like this with them that are sown in the world; they shall not all be saved. . . . For many great miseries shall be done to them that in the latter time shall dwell in the world, because they have walked in great pride.” – The Prophet Ezra

Our Life is Astonishment and Fear

“How should thy vessel then be able to comprehend the way of the Highest and, the world being now outwardly corrupted, to understand the corruption that is evident in my sight? . . . And we pass away out of the world as grasshoppers, and our life is astonishment and fear, and we are not worthy to obtain mercy.” – The Prophet Ezra

Intentional Inferiority Complex

“The way of humility is this: self-control, prayer, and thinking yourself inferior to all creatures.” – Abba Tithoes

Being a Goat

“I am one of the goats, but as for the sheep, God alone knows who they are.”  — Sayings of the Desert Fathers

Hope vs. Concern

“He who has once placed his hope in God no longer is concerned over himself.” · St. Paisius Velichkovsky

Thinking Oneself Last

“Even if we should have mounted to the very pinnacle of virtue, let us consider ourselves last of all.” · St John Chrysostom

Seeking to be Nothing

“Unless a man sets himself at utterly at nought, he cannot speak of the majesty of God.” · St. Diadochos of Photiki

Comment: It is often said, among the Orthodox, that to set oneself at nothing is the chief means of finding God, just as in our theology we might say, “If I exist, then God does not. If God exists, then I do not.” Theosis is, in some way, always connected to a correct theology. – DD

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