Monday, 30 December 2013

Which is the dominant sin in a person - Pride or Despair? (the external-objective versus internal-subjective view)


Pride is the primary and worst of Christian sins, therefore we tend to guard against Pride but also tend to be ready to diagnose it in others.

Indeed, it is much easier to perceive Pride in others than in oneself - and this is often a major blind-spot.

(Hence Jesus's parable of the mote and the beam in the eye, in the New Testament).


But Despair (i.e. hope-less-ness - therefore denial of the Truth of the Christian Good News) is also a 'major sin' - and it may be that Despair is the most characteristic modern sin.

Certainly, modern society looks most like a society in which people are frantically trying to stave-off Despair by sensation-seeking, powerful stimuli such as sex, distraction, intoxication...

But, unlike Pride, and in this respect the opposite of Pride, it is easier to discern Despair in onself than in other people.


So the basic situation is that we tend to over-diagnose Pride and under diagnose Despair in other people.

Yet for me personally, I know that the fight against Despair has been a very big thing in my life; and I also know that this has been the case for several of the people whose biographies I have read most deeply: for example the Inkling Charles Williams.

Another example would be the philosopher Wittgenstein.


My point is that what primarily motivates a person, and perhaps leads to their obvious sinfulness, their errors - may be Despair and the fight against Despair - rather than Pride-full-ness.

And when this is the truth of the situation, it is likely that there will be a profound misunderstanding.


A person prone to Despair may be in a daily, hourly, moment-by-moment struggle to keep-going, keep-motivated; and may seek stimulus and distraction like a drug addict seeks a fix - and this will lead him into all manner of sins and wickedness - and then to compound the sin by defending and justifying his actions.


Yet, seeing the sins and wickedness, another person might well ascribe them to Pride - indeed is more likely to ascribe them to Pride; but they would be wrong.

And the Despairing man may conceal the root of his behaviour, since Despair is a feeble and weak thing - and anyway, if he does admit to his Despair, he will very likely be ignored or disbelieved; or else Despair will not be given the primary role which in fact it has in his Life.

Because those who are not so prone to Despair simply cannot understand or believe its primary and shaping role in some lives.


I recognize marriage and family as the only potentially effective antidote to Despair - yet utterly precarious in this mortal world; and I believe that that this fact has not merely personal but cosmic significance. Charles Williams knew that only his wife, his marriage, could shield him from Despair - Wittgenstein (as a mostly-celibate homosexual) tragically never experienced this.