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The ego is the cause of Pride

Pope Shenouda III | 2 October 2011

 Only a person who is wrongly concerned about himself, or who loves himself in a wrong way, falls in pride. He grows in his own eyes and likes to be great in the sight of the others, or even to be greater than the others.

 Examples of those who grow in their own eyes: 
   An example is a person who looks long in the mirror to enjoy seeing his own beauty! Even in the past, the people wanted to build a city and a tower in Babylon with its top in the heavens, to make themselves a name (Gen 11: 4)! Believe me, brothers, those were perhaps less proud than the people of our days who want to go to the Moon to put the flag of their country, or to Mercury to occupy it, to dwell there, or to organize trips there!
 
   Such are the examples of the human mind that imagines things satisfying its pride. 
   King Herod was of such a type. He wanted to be great in the sight of the others. He sat on his throne and was pleased to be glorified by them when they said, "The voice of a god and not of a man!" As he did not give glory to God, an angel of the Lord immediately struck him, and he was eaten by worms and died (Acts 12: 22). Haman is another example, in the reign of King Ahasuerus he persecuted Mordecai, because the latter did not bow or pay him homage like the others (Esth 3: 3- 6)!
 
   Some people are not satisfied with being great, but desire to be greater than the others.
   Absalom, King David's son, for instance, wanted to be greater than his father and to sit on the throne in his place, and he made war with him (2 Sam 15: 18)! Indeed, who likes to be greater than the others falls in the love of supremacy.
 
   The father apostles fell in this temptation, therefore the Lord said to them, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave." (Mt 20: 25- 27)
 
   Naturally also, a person who likes to be greater than the others hates to see them greater, and this leads to jealousy and envy.
   When King Saul saw that young David received more praise than him after defeating Goliath, he felt jealous and envious, and his heart changed towards him. He pursued him more than once intending to kill him (1 Sam 18: 7- 15).
 
   Cain likewise rose against his brother Abel and killed him, because the Lord was pleased with Abel's offering and rejected his. The brothers of Joseph the Righteous, seeing that he would be better than them according to the dreams he told them and the colored tunic his father had given him, they envied him greatly. In their hatred they conspired against him to kill him, and finally they sold him as a slave (Gen 37).
 
   Jealousy made two sisters, Leah and Rachel, wrestle for getting more sons and for gaining their husband's love (Gen 29: 31, 35; 30: 8)
   Strange indeed that one feels great for outward appearances! King Solomon was of this type, for he said, "I built myself houses, and planted myself vineyards. I made myself gardens and orchards … I made myself water pools from which to water the growing trees of the grove. I acquired male and female servants … I had greater possessions of herds and flocks than all who were in Jerusalem before me." "So I became great and excelled more than all who were before me in Jerusalem." (Eccl 2: 4- 9) Actually, causes of greatness should be from within, as the Psalmist describes the royal daughter that she is all glorious within, although she was clothed in gold and adorned with many ornaments (Ps 45: 13). 
 
   The ego may be one cause making some people feel great, wise, or righteous in their own eyes. 
   The wise in his own eyes is self confident, holding to his own views, thinking himself right, whereas the Scripture says, "lean not on your own understanding" "Do not be wise in your own eyes" (Prov 3: 5-7). Such a person feels no need for counsel or advice, being self-satisfied. He trusts his own knowledge, and may even resist stubbornly any opposing views.
 
   Seeing oneself always right, the righteous in his own eyes accepts no blame, nor is ready to change his way. Both the righteous and the wise in his own eyes are stricken by self-conceit.  
   The self-conceited trusts himself greatly, thinking himself higher than he really is. This may be due to what such a person has, or thinks he has , of gifts or capabilities.
 
   Self-reliance accompany self-conceit, whereas the humble relies on God. The person who trusts himself much works much, whereas the humble prays much. When the self-conceited succeeds, he boasts of his own brilliance, efforts, and work, but the humble gives thanks to God, knowing that only through His help he succeeds.  
   The self-conceited often lives in day dreams, imagining himself doing great things, while he actually does nothing! He may even interfere in things higher than his ability, claiming that he is able to give an opinion or take an action concerning them. He often fails, and seeing that he is rejected he falls in introversion. He keeps meditating on his good things and gifts in his loneliness, away from the community that does not appreciate or benefit from them!!
 
   Who wants to be great seeks self-realization in everything. 
   Such a person gives great esteem to his personality and his dignity in whatever he does in the church and ministry. He wants to be distinguished and dominant, no matter if this creates clashes with the others! Division and wrestling prevails in the ministry because of the ego.
 
   Even in the field of teaching, the ego tries to prevail.
   This may be the cause of the special programs and teaching opposing the recognized doctrines and introducing special doctrines distinguishing these persons. It is the ego which tries to destroy the established old teaching and introduce a new teaching, which usually ends with heresies, and the ego struggles to strengthen such heresies. In the ministry, the ego seeks the first places and struggles to occupy them. Instead of the spirit of sacrifice that should prevail in the field of the ministry, it becomes only a means to exalt the person and bring esteem and veneration to him!
 
   More serious still is the person's independence from God.  
   It seems as if the ego seeks its own kingdom, not God's kingdom, and its own will rather than God's will, and seeks to fulfill its own desires rather than God's commandments. In this way one deviates from the life of obedience and submission.
 
   A clear example in this context is Jonah the Prophet who fled from the face of God so as not to obey His command concerning Nineveh, to go and warn against their destruction. He knew that if he warned them they would repent and God would forgive them. His word would fall, a matter which was against his dignity! Therefore, when God had mercy upon Nineveh, it displeased Jonah exceedingly. He became angry, and said, "Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!" (Jon 4: 1- 3)
 
   Another aspect of the soul's independence from God is its desire to live in complete freedom, even against all God's commandments! 
   It is the trap in which many fell, and due to wrong freedom they became languid, loose and homosexual, seeking to legalize their abnormality. An example is the existentialists who considered God's commandments are a hindrance to their existence, therefore, they proclaimed a wrong principle: that it is good that God does not exist so that they may exist! They wanted to have full freedom and to enjoy the wrong pleasure away from God!
 
   Naturally, a person who for the sake of self-realization takes this stand against God will take the same stand against the father confessor.  
   Such a person does not want his freedom to be hindered by his father confessor, so he obeys only what conforms to his desires and argues or disobeys whatever advice the father confessor gives him contradicting his thoughts and tendencies. Then he begins to avoid taking his counsel concerning things he knows will be rejected. He wants that his father confessor be a mere tool to fulfill his desires, merely to give them a legal ecclesiastical form through his consent, otherwise he will leave him to another father confessor! He actually follows his own whims.
 
   Wrong self-love gives room for the ego to prevail in all one's dealings.
   A person in this case wants to be more distinguished than the others, and wants to be honored by everybody dealing with him. He is very sensitive for his dignity, his fame, and his word! As a result he easily clashes with the others, and enters into controversies, and even into fighting and envy. The ego is very high in such a case, causing everybody to hate such a person and avoid all contact with him. It makes a person tend to grandiosity and haughtiness, desiring to be the only great person and nobody else. He feels displeased for any praise addressed to others as if admiration is totally confined to him!
 
   Self-focus also leads to covetousness.
   To a person of this type may apply the words, "All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full." (Eccl 1: 7) The ego is never satisfied; no wealth, greatness, or praise satisfies his desires. Satan was not satisfied with all the glory he had, but wanted to rise high, to exalt his throne above the stars of God, to be like the Most High (Isa 14: 13- 14).
 
   With such self-love and covetousness a person would not allow anybody else to be honored. We remember here the strife between the herdsmen of Lot's livestock and the herdsmen of Abraham's livestock when the possessions became great. We remember the painful words "the land was not able to support them, that they might dwell together" (Gen 13: 6) 
 
   One led by the ego to covetousness can hardly give, for such a person likes to receive than to give, contrary to the Lord's commandment (Acts 20: 35).
   In one's self-focus a person finds it difficult to pay the tithes and the firstlings, as if he will tear part of himself when giving!, as in the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16). Lazarus desired even the crumbles falling from the table of the rich man, who did not give him! Even if such a person gives, it will not be in secret, because this will not bring him glorification in the sight of the others. When such a person gives, he gives from what he has, whereas the greatest giving in the sight of God is giving one's life, as the Lord says, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends." (Jn 15: 13)
 
   In self-love a person falls in boasting and self-justification.
   One in this case keeps speaking much about oneself and one's virtues. Undoubtedly he speaks about half the facts, for the other half is actually weaknesses and shortcomings, which he conceals …
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