Holy Fathers on Pride

Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers on Pride

Whenever you want to subdue your high and proud thoughts, examine your conscience carefully: Have you kept all the commandments? Have you loved your enemies and been kind to them in their misfortunes? Have you counted yourself to be an unprofitable servant and the worst of all sinners? If you find you have done all this, do not therefore think well of yourself as if you had done everything well but realize that even the thought of such things is totally destructive. Abba Or, The Sayings of the Desert Fathers.

The chief cause of criticism and slander is pride and egotism, for man thinks himself better [than others]. For this reason it is very beneficial for a person to think of himself as smaller than all, so that he sees the brother as better, in order that he may, with the help of God, be delivered from this evil. Elder Ephraim of Philotheou Mount Athos, "Counsels from the Holy Mountain"

The mercy of God supports all of us, but if we are proud, God will lift off His grace and we will become worse than the others. Elder Ephraim of Philotheou Mount Athos, "Counsels from the Holy Mountain"

...a man who passionately wishes his life, name and works to be rumored in the world commits adultery in the eyes of God just like the old people of Judea..."  St, Simeon the New Theologian (Practical and Theological Precepts no. 104, Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart; Faber and Faber pg. 121)

...as soon as a man understands and truly feels his weakness, he immediately puts a restraint on the vain pride of his soul which obscures reason, and thus he gains protection... The Monks Callistus and Ignatius (Directions to Hesychasts no. 16i, Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart; Faber and Faber pg. 187-188)

...inevitably those who put on a show of holiness for the sake of self-display not only fail to achieve anything through their false piety, but also are wounded by their conscience. St. Maximos the Confessor (First Century on Theology no. 19)

...those who are a law unto themselves cannot escape conceit... St. Gregory of Sinai (On Silence and Prayer no. 8)

...to a foolish intellect its own thoughts appear the most intelligent of all, though they may be utterly degraded. St. Maximos the Confessor (Third Century on Love no. 58)

A hypocrite, hunting after the glory that comes from an apparent righteousness, is untroubled so long as he thinks that he escapes notice. But when he is detected, he utters streams of imprecation, imagining that by abusing others he can hide his own deformity. St. Maximos the Confessor (First Century on Theology no. 23)

A man who is deeply wounded in his heart by provocation and abuse shows thereby that deep in himself he harbors the old serpent. If he bears the blows in silence or answers with great humility, he will render this serpent weak and powerless (or will kill it altogether). But if he argues with bitterness or speaks with arrogance he will give the serpent an added strength to pour poison into his heart. St. Simeon the New Theologian (Practical and Theological Precepts no. 31, Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart; Faber and Faber pg. 103)

Abba Isidore said, "If you fast regularly, do not be inflated with pride; if you think highly of yourself because of it, then you had better eat meat. It is better for a man to eat meat than to be inflated with pride and glorify himself." The Desert Fathers

An evident sinner will turn towards good more easily than a secret sinner, hiding under the cloak of visible virtues. Lorenzo Scupoli (Unseen Warfare Chapter 1)

As long as you have bad habits do not reject hardship, so that through it you may be humbled and eject your pride. St. Maximos the Confessor (Second Century on Love no. 43)

Avoid praise, but do not be ashamed of reproach. Venerable St. Nilus of Sinai

Beware of speaking in a severe or superior manner; for both are highly disagreeable and make people suspect you of great vanity and a high opinion of yourself. Lorenzo Scupoli (Unseen Warfare: Chapter 25)

Come let us cleanse ourselves by almsgiving and acts of mercy to the poor,
Not sounding a trumpet or making a show of our charity.
Let not our left hand know what our right hand is doing;
Let not vainglory scatter the fruit of our almsgiving;
But in secret let us call on Him that knows all secrets;
Father, forgive us our trespasses, for Thou lovest mankind." Sunday of Orthodoxy, Matins. - "The Lenten Triodion"


Having fallen from his heavenly rank through pride, the devil constantly strives to bring down also all those who wholeheartedly wish to approach the Lord; and he uses the same means which caused his own downfall, that is pride and love of vainglory. These and similar things are the means by which the demons fight us and hope to separate us from God.

Moreover, knowing that he who loves his brother loves also God, they put into our hearts hatred of one another - and this to such degree that at times a man cannot bear to see his brother or say a word to him. Many have performed truly great labors of virtue, but have ruined themselves through folly. It would not be surprising if the same thing were to happen to you too; if, for example, having cooled towards active work, you begin to imagine that you already possess virtues. For there you have already fallen into that devilish disease (high opinion of yourself), thinking that you are close to God and are in the light, whereas in actual fact you are in darkness.

What made our Lord Jesus Christ lay aside his garments, gird himself with a towel, and, pouring water into a basin, begin to wash the feet of those who were below Him (John 13:4, etc.), if not to teach us humility? For it was humility He showed us by example of what He then did. And indeed those who want to be accepted into the foremost rank cannot achieve this otherwise than through humility; for in the beginning the thing that caused downfall from heaven was a movement of pride. So, if a man lacks extreme humility, if he is not humble with all his heart, all his mind, all his spirit, all his soul and body - he will not inherit the kingdom of God. St Anthony the Great, "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, (London: Faber and Faber, 1954), pp. 45-46


If you have gained some gift or another from God, or find yourself in a good spiritual state, do not in your vainglory accept vain illusions about yourself, thinking that you are something and imagining that your enemies would not dare to attack you, that you abhor and despise them so much that you will immediately repulse them if they dare to come near you. As soon as you think thus, you will fall as easily as an autumn leaf from a tree. Lorenzo Scupoli (Unseen Warfare: Chapter 19)

If you wish to be a person of understanding and moderation, and not to be a slave to the passion of conceit, continually search among created things for what is hidden from your knowledge. When you find that there are vast numbers of different things that escape your notice, you will wonder at your ignorance and abase your presumption. And when you have come to know yourself, you will understand many great and wonderful things; for to think that one knows prevents one from advancing in knowledge. St. Maximos the Confessor (Third Century on Love no. 81)

It is better for your soul that you confess yourself as guilty in everything and as being the least of all, than to run to self-justification, something that comes from pride. God opposes the proud, and renders grace unto the humble. Counsels of Venerable St. Hilarion (Ponomarev) of Optina

It is no small struggle to be freed from self-esteem. Such freedom is to be attained by the inner practice of the virtues and by more frequent prayer; and the sign that you have attained it is that you no longer harbor rancor against anybody who abuses or has abused you. St. Maximos the Confessor, Fourth Century on Love, Philokalia, Vol. 2

Keep a strict watch against every appearance of pride: it appears imperceptibly, particularly in time of vexation and irritability against others for quite unimportant causes. St. John of Kronstadt (My Life in Christ, Part 1; Holy Trinity Monastery, pg. 18)

Knowing therefore that it is better to want glory, than to possess it, let us not seek for honors, but evade them when they are offered,, let us cast them from us, let us extinguish that desire. This we have said at once to the rulers of the Church, and to those under their rule. For a soul desirous of honor, and of being glorified, shall not see the kingdom of heaven. This is not my own saying, I speak not my own words, but those of the Spirit of God. He shall not see it, though he practice virtue. For he saith, `They have their reward.' (Mt. 6:5) St. John Chrysostom, Second Homily on Titus

Loquacity mostly comes from a certain vainglory, which makes us think that we know a great deal and imagine our opinion on the subject of conversation to be the most satisfactory of all. So we experience an irresistible urge to speak out and in a stream of words, with many repetitions, to impress the same opinion in the hearts of others, thus foisting ourselves upon them as unbidden teachers and sometimes even dreaming of making pupils of men, who understand the subject much better than the teacher. Lorenzo Scupoli (Unseen Warfare: Chapter 25)

Our most dire enemy is pride. Its power is immense. Pride saps our every aspiration, vitiates our every endeavor. Most of us fall prey to its insinuations. The proud man wants to dominate, to impose his will on others; and so conflict arises between brothers... [This]is contrary to revelation concerning the Trinity in Whom there is no greater, no lesser; where each Person possesses absolute plenitude of Divine Being. Archimandrite Sophrony (His Life is Mine, Part 2: Chapter 2; SVS Press pg. 118)

Pointing out that man has nothing of which to be proud, the Elder added “Actually, what does man have to crow about? A ragged, wretched beggar cries out for alms: ‘Have Mercy! Have Mercy!’ But as to whether he will be shown mercy, who knows?” Elder Amvrossy of Optina

Rejoice when you perform the virtues, but do not become exalted, lest, arriving at the pier, you suffer a shipwreck. Venerable St. Nilus of Sinai

Self-esteem is eradicated by the hidden practice of the virtues, pride, by ascribing our achievements to God. St. Maximos the Confessor (Third Century on Love no. 62)

Since the time of the transgression of our forefather, despite the weakening of our spiritual and moral powers, we are wont to think very highly of ourselves. Although our daily experience very effectively proves to us the falseness of this opinion of ourselves, in our incomprehensible self-deception we do not cease to believe that we are something, and something not unimportant. Yet this spiritual disease of ours, so hard to perceive and acknowledge, is more abhorrent to God than all else in us, as being the first offspring of our self-hood and self-love, and the source, root and cause of all passions and of all our downfalls and wrong-doing. It closes the very door of our mind or spirit, through which alone Divine grace can enter, and gives this grace no way to come and dwell in a man. Lorenzo Scupoli (Unseen Warfare, Chapter 2)

The Christian needs two wings in order to soar upward and attain Paradise: humility and love. When the first order of angels fell from angelic glory and became demons, the other nine orders humbled themselves and worshipped the All-Holy Trinity, and remained in their place and rejoice forever. We, too, my brethren, must reflect what an evil thing pride is - that it cast down the devil from angelic glory and he will always burn in Hades - and that humility kept the angels in Heaven, and they rejoice perpetually in the glory of the Holy Trinity. Let us then, my brethren, avoid pride, because it is the first daughter of the devil, is a path that leads to Hades; and let us have humility, because it is angelic, is a path that leads to Paradise. Modern Orthodox Saints I, St. Cosmas Aitolos).Dr. Constantine Cavarnos., INSTITUTE FOR BYZANTINE AND MODERN GREEK STUDIES., Belmont, Massachusetts., pp.81-94

The holy Fathers say with one voice: The first thing to keep in mind is never in any respect to rely on yourself... The decision not to rely on self is for most people a severe obstacle at the very outset. It must be overcome, otherwise we have no prospect of going further. For how can a human being receive advice, instructions ad help if he believes that he knows and can do everything and needs no directions? Through such a wall of self-satisfaction no gleam of light can penetrate. "Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own right," cries the prophet Isaiah (5:21), and the apostle St. Paul utters the warning: "Be not wise in your own conceits (Rom. 12:16)." The kingdom of heaven has been "revealed unto babes," but remains hidden from "the wise and prudent (Mt. 11:25). Chapter 2, "The Way of the Ascetics" by Tito Colliander

The origin of all the passions is self-love; their consummation is pride. Self-love is a mindless love for the body. He who cuts this off cuts off at the same time all the passions that come from it. St. Maximos the Confessor (Third Century on Love no. 57)

Those who speak from their own thoughts, before having acquired purity, are seduced by the spirit of self-esteem. St. Gregory of Sinai (Texts on Commandments and Dogmas no. 128)

Walk before God in simplicity, and not in subtleties of the mind. Simplicity brings faith; but subtle and intricate speculations bring conceit; and conceit brings withdrawal from God. St. Isaac of Syria

Watch carefully lest there arm itself against you the proud and vainglorious thought that in serving the brethren you are doing everything excellently; strive as much as possible not to allow the unprofitable, evil, and soul-destroying thought of vainglory to act in you, for it enters the soul of a man subtly, so that sometimes he does not notice at all how his thoughts are becoming puffed up and are preparing a fall for him. Elder Hilarion

When the first order of angels fell from the angelic glory and became demons, the other nine orders humbled themselves and worshipped the All-holy Trinity, and remained in their place and rejoice forever. We, too, my brethren, must reflect what an evil thing pride is - that it cast down the devil from angelic glory and he will always burn in Hell - and that humility kept the angels in Heaven, and they rejoice perpetually in the glory of the Holy Trinity. Let us the, my brethren, avoid pride, because it is the first daughter of the devil, is a path that leads to Hell;; and let us have humility, because it is angelic, is a path that leads to Paradise. St. Cosmas Aitolos, Teachings (selections)

Who is so stupid and stubborn as to suppose, even just a little, that because human being have been called by names that belong to God, that the nature of man and of God is consequently one, or that, because the Lord has also been called by a name appropriate to His servants, that we should weight with a single comparison both what is made and its Maker. St. Ephraim the Syrian, in The Luminous Eye by Sebastian Brock

Whoever rejoices when admired by people is mocked by demons. Father Paisios of the Holy Mountain

A man who craves esteem cannot be rid of the causes of grief. St Isaac of Syria

Believe that dishonors and reproaches are medicines that heal the pride of thy soul, and pray for those who reproach thee, as for true physicians of thy soul, being assured that he who hates dishonor, hates humility, and he who avoids those who grieve him, flees from meekness. Venerable Dorotheos

"Just as water and fire cannot be combined, so self-justification and humility excludes one another." St. Mark the Ascetic

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