CS Lewis on the “Great Sin” of Pride

CS Lewis is one of the authors that has changed my perspective more than any other over the years. Mere Christianity in particular was one of the books that most influenced me over 30 years ago. It was interesting to come back to the text after a hiatus, and this revealed a shift in perspective that I didn’t think I’d ever experience. I was surprised by joy to find that I completely agree with Lewis. I approached the text thinking I would not, ironically having some pride in my ability to see something I thought Lewis missed. 

Me overwhelmed at the Eagle and Child, the pub where Lewis and Tolkien used to meet to discuss their writing.

I struggled with the “greasy, smarmy” kind of self-loathing that Lewis describes in the 4th misunderstanding he addresses at the end of the chapter. I used to believe that it was a sign of my humility and a way to honor “God” by emphasizing my own lack and unworthiness. That kind of “humility” never works. It’s the opposite of humility, and therefore insidious. Sin always is, but pride is especially so. 

This is why Lewis calls all other sins “mere fleabites.” Most other sins are somewhat obvious. Lewis himself admits his struggle as he writes his chapter, and to some it may seem boastful to offer advice or criticism in this area. But perhaps in doing so we miss the point. 

Pride is not being sure or confident in yourself and your gifts, this is in fact, faith. It is faith that the God of the Universe is on your side and relentlessly pursuing us all- even our enemies. The desire to help someone struggling with their pride by calling it out is also paradoxically humility. 

And as I chucked at Lewis’s gaffe, upon reflection it turned out that the brother I was quietly rebuking was my own face in a mirror.

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