Greek tragedies were about the fall of a hero, someone who is admirable in many ways (since the fall of a bad person is not a tragedy but a good thing). He brings the catastrophe upon himself due to a “tragic flaw.” (The word for that in the Greek is hamartia, which the New Testament renders as sin. Note that sin is not just the bad things that we do, but it’s our tragic flaw.) That flaw or sin in classical drama is usually hubris, or pride. Not in the sense of taking pride in a job well done, etc., but in the sense of exalting yourself. The Greeks believed that when someone exalts himself beyond the status of mere mortal, the gods–not being beneficent as in Christianity–will send Nemesis and will strike him down.
The Bible agrees with that, apart from the pagan fatalism: “One’s pride will bring him low” (Proverbs 29:23). Pride, the exaltation of the self, is one of the traditional Seven Deadly Sins. But today we are so self-focused that we hardly think of how damaging pride can be–not only spiritually and morally, but also in the practical course of everyday living.
In his article Lockdowns, Unpunished Crime, And Climate Hysteria: The Roots Of Our Three Biggest Disasters, Christopher Bedford shows how hubris lies behind our failures in dealing with the COVID pandemic and other recent problems. But this is nothing new. He writes,
Over our history, we’ve gotten pretty used to this kind of hubris. It’s the arrogance that believes common sense and time-tested policies can be thrown out as leaders chase utopias. It’s the arrogance that makes men think they can shape the economy and tax and spend without inflation.
It’s the arrogance that makes men think they can install a republic in countries that lack a middle class or a Western and Judeo-Christian tradition of individual liberty. It’s the arrogance that makes men think they can maintain a republic in a West that’s gutted its middle class and banished its Western, Judeo-Christian moral code.
It’s the arrogance that causes people every generation to decide they won’t be held back by dusty old wisdom and tradition, and it’s the arrogance we see playing out every day on our city’s streets, where violent crimes threaten citizens’ lives and property.
Bedford, who listed the hubris-saturated proposals of the experts whom we blogged about yesterday, quotes the great free-market, free-society economist Friedrich Hayek, who described “the fatal conceit” of both totalitarian and benign utopians, the idea “that man is able to shape the world around him according to his wishes.”
I would add that hubris brought down Donald Trump’s presidency, that if he had just tempered his pride, he would have found much greater success. Hubris also brings down marriages, ruins businesses, and destroys ministries.
But the converse is also true: “One’s pride will bring him low,” and yet the converse is also true: “but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor” (Proverbs:23). “The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life” (Proverbs 22:4).