Mere Christianity | Book III, Chapter 8

C.S. Lewis | Mere Christianity
Book III | Christian Behavior
Chapter 8 | “The Great Sin”

Question: What is the “one vice of which no man in the world is free”?

Answer: Pride.

Q: What are some things that are true about the sin of pride?

A: We all struggle with it. We despise it in others. We can’t “imagine” that we are guilty of it ourselves. It makes people very unpopular while at the same time, there is “no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves.” The more we struggle with pride, “the more we dislike it in others.”

Q: What is the virtue opposite of pride?

A: Humility.

Q. How do unchastity, anger, greed, and drunkenness compare to pride and why is it so dangerous?

A. Lewis says these other sins “are mere flea bites in comparison.” The problem with pride is that “it was through Pride that the devil became the devil.” Pride is the vice that “leads to every other vice” and “the complete anti-God state of mind.”

Q. What is the test for finding out how much pride you have?

A. How irritated are you when you are snubbed or when people don’t notice you or give you an opinion you didn’t ask for (“shove their oar in”) or look down on you or show off to you?

Q. What is the essence of pride?

A. It is competitive. “Pride 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 we were all equal, “there would be nothing to be proud about.” As we compare ourselves to others we may find we have pride.

Q. How is it that “Nearly all those evils in the world which people put down to greed or selfishness are really far more the result of Pride”?

A. Lewis gives an example of money. It’s not so much that we want more and better things or pleasure, we want more than someone else.

Q. What does Pride enjoy the most?

A. Power. “There is nothing makes a man feel so superior to others as being able to move them about like toy soldiers.” A certain kind of woman will “spread misery wherever she goes by collecting admirers.” Lewis points out, “If I am a proud man, then, as long as there is one man in the whole world more powerful, or richer, or cleverer than I, he is my rival and my enemy.”

Q. Why do Christians say pride is “the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began”?

A. There is a togetherness and friendliness with some other vices, “but Pride always means enmity. And not only enmity between man and man, but enmity to God.”

Q. What is the idea of God that Lewis mentions that tells us whether or not we know God?

A. God is “something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself” and “Unless you know God as that—and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison— you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”

Q. What “terrible question” is raised by this and what is the answer?

A. How can “people who are quite obviously eaten up with Pride can say they believe in God and appear to themselves very religious?” The answer: “They are worshiping an imaginary God” who “approves of them and thinks them far better than ordinary people.”

Q. What should we know when “we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good—above all, that we are better than someone else”?

A. “We may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil.”

Q. What is “the real test of being in the presence of God”?

A. “You either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether.”

Q. What is so bad about pride getting “into the very center of our religious life?”

A. It means the devil isn’t trying to get at us “through our animal nature,” but coming at us “direct from Hell.”  Because it is a spiritual vice “it is far more subtle and deadly.” We can even be prideful as we deal with other sins.

Q. What the first of some “possible misunderstandings” Lewis wants to guard against?

A. First, there is no problem in feeling pleasure when being praised because “the pleasure lies not in what you are but in the fact that you have pleased someone you wanted (and rightly wanted) to be please.” Where we get in trouble is when we go from “I have pleased him; all is well,” to “What a fine person I must be to have done it.” Pride is at its actual worst “when you look down on others so much that you do not care what they think of you.”

Q. What is the right time not to care what others think about us?

A. When we are more concerned about what God thinks of us. The problem with pride is that is can lead us not to care about what others think because we don’t value others.

Q. What is the second possible misunderstanding?

A. When we say we are “proud” of something. It depends on what we mean. It’s no problem to have “a warm-hearted admiration for” something unless it makes us think we are better than others. At the same time, being proud of something is better than being proud of ourselves. Lewis says, “To love and admire anything outside yourself is to take one step away from utter spiritual ruin; though we shall not be well so long as we love and admire anything more than we love and admire God.”

Q. What is the third possible misunderstanding?

A. God is neither offended by Pride nor does he demand humility. “He is not in the least worried about His dignity.” The issue is, “He wants you to know Him; wants to give you Himself,” which can’t be done when we’re concerned about a false self and all the posturing that is part of it.

Q. What is the fourth and final possible misunderstanding.

A. The truly humble person won’t be someone people call humble, “a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody.” You will consider him “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.”

Q. What is the first step in dealing with pride?

A. Admitting that you are proud. Nothing else can happen until you do this. The problem is that “if you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.”






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