I have heard that English has the biggest vocabulary, the most words, of any language. A Russian tutor said that English has twice as many words as Russian but is half as specific. In other words, the argument goes, it takes us twice as many words to say the same phrase in Russian. This particular tutor wondered how scientists using such a diverse and clunky language could get us to the moon first.
The virtue for Saint John’s School this month is “pride.” Some clever and attentive students have commented that they thought pride was a sin; therefore, how can it be a virtue. In typical Anglican fashion, I answered yes to both – it is a sin and it is a part of the virtuous life.
C.S. Lewis (not a fan of pride), wrote in Mere Christianity, “The utmost evil is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.” Obviously, this is not the form of pride we are teaching and encouraging at school. We are teaching the virtue of doing one’s best, putting one’s best effort forward, taking pride in one’s school work, homework, extra-curricular work, and church work. We are lifting up the virtuous side of being proud of one’s school, church, faith tradition, and family tradition. At the same time, we are not placing one set of traditions over others. I don’t think we have a word for that kind of pride so maybe English needs a new one.
I know a talented student who is quite good at softball. During practice she hits the ball with skill, tenacity and ferocity. But, during a game, she looks like she’s never been at bat before. When confronted with this paradox, she says she doesn’t want to show off. I find that very interesting and, in an odd way, consistent. But in my opinion, Jesus calls us into a life where we do our best with whatever gift or skill our Creator has given us. Unfortunately, we don’t have a word for it.
In St. Paul’s first and second letter to the Corinthians, he warns against pride and also shares his boasting about their faithful work. A careful reading of the Greek makes it seem like Paul is dancing around “pride” as no word in Greek defines how proud he is of them and how he wants them to continue doing what God has blessed them to do.
Even if there is no word for it, I think we should have pride in what God has blessed us with, pride in accomplishing good things for God’s Kingdom, and pride in the faith tradition we have inherited.