The Great Sin — C.S. Lewis

My grandmother once told me, ‘Don’t let failure go to your heart and don’t let success go to your head.’
- Will Smith

Okay, I’ll concede, I failed on the second day. I was perhaps, as is my tendency, overly ambitious and I ended up falling embarrassingly short of my goal — one article per day. However, I still think a valuable lesson can be gained from this: that is, in order to built a habit that is repeatable, no matter how you’re feeling, one must “Make it Easy”. This is something James Clear talks about in his book Atomic Habits, and its a rule of thumb that, to be brutally honest, I thought I was too good for…

So after that ramble, I’ve decided that I will attempt to write a long-ish article each week, but find somewhere to share thoughts or other interesting things I find (this article is one of those “interesting things”. If on a particular day I feel more enthused, I may go back and add to my previous articles, and expand upon them. Anyhow, let’s begin…

The Great Sin

Earlier this year my father introduced me to an excellent YouTube channel by the name “CSLewisDoodle”, dedicated to illustrating and explaining many of C.S. Lewis’s writings or talks. I would highly recommend anyone with even a mild interest in faith or philosophy to have a watch.

I’d also like to start by addressing my personal convictions, to be fully transparent. I’m a Christian, although not expressly devout — I don’t go to church nor read the Bible regularly, but I believe in a God. I hope that both theist, non-theist and atheist will feel they find some value in this article, and I hope if you feel so inclined you’ll leave a comment or two :)

Sin can often seem like an antiquated phrase, a remnant of a devout, strict and inflexible past. I concede, some of those connotations are not entirely undeserved, but I’d implore you to look beyond the stigma and try to see the idea of sin not as rigid and boring but as a tool that helps us become better, healthier and happier.

If you’re a non-Christian, you might be surprised to hear that the greatest sin isn’t greed, nor lust but instead pride. Broadly speaking in Christian doctrine, the 7 primary sins fall into two broad camps:

  • Sins of the flesh (lesser): These are sins typically a result of our natural/animal tendencies e.g. gluttony, lust
  • Sins of the spirit (higher): These are sins connected with our “spiritual” tendencies e.g. pride, envy

(It’s debatable which camp sloth, greed and wrath fall into (a.k.a. I don’t know))

Now when I was first informed that pride was the worst sin, I was somewhat taken aback — isn’t pride something positive: you’re proud of what you’ve accomplished and what you’ve achieved. We’re often told, “I’m so proud of you” or “You should proud of yourself”. Now it’s taken me a while to reconcile these seemingly normal, positive statements with pride being a sin, and I’ll be honest, C.S. Lewis does a much better job explaining this than me (who’d’ve guessed?), however I think I’ve reached a satisfactory explanation:

When you are proud, take a moment to reflect on what it is you’re actually feeling? Generally, I’d argue you’re feeling a sense of superiority to other people, in a sense, looking down on your fellow man. Getting a good test score or achieving a certain honour are certainly accomplishments and you should be satisfied and content, but not proud. If you achieve 90% on a test, when most others scored 70%, most people feel better about themselves, than say if most others had scored the same as them, 90%.



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