I have often heard that Pride is the most dangerous of the seven capital sins. In terms of habitual pornography use, one might suppose that lust is the driving force, but I have been pondering how much harder pride makes it for one to break such a habit. Here are a few of the lies that pride leads us to tell ourselves:
- I am good enough just the way I am
We could call this the Mr. Rogers line of self-deception: “I like you just the way you are.” If I’m convinced that I’m already right where I need to be, I never stop to examine my conscience in the first place. Result: I never change
- My sins aren’t as bad as other people’s
“Okay, so I sinned, but there were extenuating circumstances.” Pride can keep us from looking at our sins objectively, and accurately assessing our sinfulness. We make excuses, whether that means blaming someone else or some factor that was beyond our control. It couldn’t have been my fault — I would never do such a thing
- My sins are worse than other people’s
While we should always be concerned especially with our own sinfulness — all of the saints whose writings I’ve read have seemed to see themselves as the worst among sinners — an exaggerated sense of our own virtue can cause us to see our sins as worse and less forgivable than others. I might be understanding if a friend of mine admitted to looking on a pornographic website, but somehow I think my doing so is too great a sin for even Jesus to forgive.
Once I delayed Confession because I was worried that I would disappoint the priest. I finally realized how silly this was, imagining that he had ever thought me invulnerable to sin in the first place. And, really, it is Jesus whom I should be worried about disappointing in the first place.
- This will NEVER happen again!
Pride can lead us to exaggerate the magnitude of our own repentance, such that we think we can count on ourselves to never fall into sin again. We then let down our guard, and when we encounter temptation again, we tell ourselves that we can handle it rather than running away and asking God for the grace to resist it. We allow temptation to repeatedly chip away at our willpower, until we are falling into the same sins all over again. Once that happens, we go back to seeing our sins as unforgivable, because gosh darn it, we were supposed to be above that.
Lust certainly deserves its place among the seven deadly sins, but humility can at least help us to see our weakness and beg for God’s help and mercy, and for the virtue of chastity. If we hang onto pride, however, we may never ask for the help we truly need.