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PTypes Pride Sin, Pride & Self-Acceptance




Relation of Dishonesty to Pride


In The Nature and Destiny of Man (vol. 1, pg. 203), Reinhold Niebuhr provides a Christian account of what psychologists call ego defense mechanisms:

"Our analysis of man's sin of pride and self-love has consistently assumed that an element of deceit is involved in this self-glorification. This dishonesty must be regarded as a concomitant, and not as the basis, of self-love. Man loves himself inordinately. Since his determinate existence does not deserve the devotion lavished upon it, it is obviously necessary to practice some deception in order to justify such excessive devotion. While such deception is constantly directed against competing wills, seeking to secure their acceptance and validation of the self's too generous opinion of itself, its primary purpose is to deceive, not others, but the self. The self must at any rate deceive itself first. Its deception of others is partly an effort to convince itself against itself. The fact that this necessity exists is an important indication of the vestige of truth which abides with the self in all its confusion and which it must placate before it can act. The dishonesty of man is thus an interesting refutation of the doctrine of man's total depravity."



Human Defensiveness: The Third Way | Google cache

The data of human defensiveness looks like the biblical description of the workings of sin. “Defensiveness” incarnates all the blindness to the truth about oneself which might be denominated “pride.” It has that combination of self-deception and deception of others that fits under the heading “the deceitfulness of sin.” It embodies a primal resistance to honesty about oneself, an evasiveness, excuse making, and blame shifting, all of which are captured in a host of colorful metaphors: stiff-necked, hardened or darkened in heart, foolish, and so forth.

. . . .

All this is to say that the “ego ideal” which “ego defense mechanisms” are defending and the violations of one’s internalized moral code which “self-exonerating mechanisms” are busy justifying are far from being mere “psychological” categories. These are “theological” issues to the core: the pervasive outworkings of human pride in seeking—automatically and blindly as well as willingly—to live autonomously from the Creator and Redeemer.



Reinhold Niebuhr (1996, c. 1941, 1964). The Nature and Destiny of Man: a Christian Interpretation, 2 vols. Louisville: Westminster Charles Knox.




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