Updated: Apr 8
As we are still dealing with the fallout from the Will Smith-Chris Rock episode at the Oscars last week, one word continues to come to mind; it is a word that has come to dominate American culture. And that word is ‘pride’. Pride was on full display at the Oscars last week. Will Smith slapped Chris Rock out of pride. The hosts mocked Florida parents who are trying to protect their children out of pride. Pride may be the most destructive of all the human emotions. It is the most anti-Christian emotion. Why did the devil rebel against God? Pride. Why did Adam and Eve disobey God and eat the apple? Pride. It is that sense of personal superiority.
It is not enough for Will Smith to be rich and famous and about to win an Oscar, he could not allow one perceived slight against him because his pride demands that he must be better than everyone else always, so his pride forced him to act out in anger, to become the exact opposite of the person he wants to be. His pride caused him to later go on stage and make a speech claiming, “I want to be a vessel for love… I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern”, moments after punching someone in the face. He showed no humility. It was all about him, and his superiority even when he just proved he wasn’t. The way he framed what he said was all about him. “I want to be… I want to be…”. “I, I, I, I.”
Pride is the reason why comedy has become so hard these days. Out of pride, too many people are unwilling to laugh at themselves, to see the humor in the way they behave. Comedy knocks people down a peg, and the prideful refuse to let that happen. New York Times contributor Roxane Gay defended Smith’s action in a column arguing that black women like actress Jada Pinkett Smith shouldn't have to tolerate jokes made at their expense. That sentiment comes from pride. The prideful cannot stand any criticism, critique or joke about themselves. We have become a culture of the perpetually offended. Oscar co-host, Wanda Sykes on the Ellen Show, complained that “no one offered me an apology.” She wasn’t the comedian who was struck by Smith, but she was so offended that she is demanding an apology.
But that incident is the logical destination of the Academy Awards. The entire ceremony has become a three-hour long display of pride. Rich and famous celebrities putting their beauty and opulence on display for the whole world to see at a ceremony where they give each other awards for how great they are. The red carpet is the ultimate, “look at me” venue, putting themselves on display, on a pedestal believing they are better than someone else because they are wearing the most prestigious designer’s cloths. That’s why most of their speeches have become virtue signaling pablum because they know how self-indulgent it all is so they have to show the world they are morally superior through their high-minded empty words. Most of the speeches at the Academy awards have turned from humble words of gratitude into expressions superior virtue.
Today, American culture is being strangled by this virtue signaling pride. It is what causes someone like Hilary Clinton to call the people who disagree with her politically, a “basket of deplorables”. We cannot simply disagree on a matter. We have to make it personal, and in making it personal, we are feeding our pride. ‘I am better than you because you hold different opinions than me.’ How can we come together when what’s keeping us apart is not merely differences of opinion, but a contrived sense of moral hierarchy? Most of our political debates are framed as moral litmus tests. The other side is painted as the devil when in reality the real devil is the one who dons the garb of moral superiority. And it is that moral superiority which will not only lead to the destruction of our country, but desecration our souls.
Pride took hold of many people who bought into the Covid orthodoxy. Those who wore masks or got the shots looked down upon, sneered at, and even rejoiced at the deaths of those who chose not to. They viewed themselves as morally superior and more worthy of life than those lesser creatures. This prideful attitude shows up in many political positions, BLM, Ukraine, the border, vaccines, masks. If you are on the “moral” side of those issues, then you are a better, more worthy person than those who aren’t. Pride leads to the pro-choice position. Pride is dripping all over their abortion arguments. “My body, my choice” - me, me, me, me, me. The only concern is about the self. They believe they are so much more valuable and superior of a person than the baby that they can decide whether the baby lives or dies. That is all pride.
Adults and teachers grooming children into the LGBTQ lifestyle do so out of pride; they are putting their woke virtue ahead of the child’s well-being. They are proclaiming, ‘Look how virtuous I am promoting this progressive lifestyle’, as they encourage children to have their sexual organs removed, rendering them sterile, causing them to live an inauthentic existence. They proudly attend “pride marches” and wave “pride flags” believing their lifestyles are so morally superior that they push it onto to others, onto children. It is all about themselves, their virtue, their pride.
Critical race theory which teaches our children that certain races are inherently bad and other races are inherently good, stems from pride, the desire to say I am superior to others. And the white virtue signalers who go along with critical race theory and beat themselves up for their “whiteness”, do so out of pride, believing they can gain moral superiority by confessing to sins they did not commit or admit to character flaws they do not have in an attempt to gain moral superiority through feigned humility.
The censorship which is taking hold in our country is motivated out of pride. Certain people believing they alone know the truth to such an extent that anybody who disagrees with them needs to be shut down and silenced is all prideful. Cancel culture which denies certain people forgiveness, is the ultimate expression of pride. It is complete moral superiority to render somebody unworthy of your forgiveness. But that pride is far more destructive to ourselves and our society than even the worst piece of misinformation or misguided opinion could ever be.
Social media sites promote pride through their platforms. Users are constantly posting pictures of themselves showing how superior their lives are. No matter what the issue, the virtue signalers all change their Facebook pages to reflect their virtuous position. Their so-called statement of support for the cause is really a statement of their own virtue. They are proclaiming, ‘Look at me. Look at how wonderful, compassionate, caring and moral I am.’ This is what we get from the selfie generation, masses of people taking pictures of themselves to post on social media to show everyone how much better their life is than theirs.
Our leaders tone deaf policy decisions come from their deep-seated sense of pride – their belief in their moral superiority over the masses. Joe Biden’s refusal to represent the will of the people, and to continue with his failed policies to appease a small segment of his party at the expense of those he is supposed to represent is driven by his pride. He believes that he and the far left of his party are superior to hundreds of millions of suffering citizens to the point that he will do their will over the citizens.
Elites like Mark Zuckerberg who chose to use $400 million of his own money and his social media platform to thwart the will of the people and help rig the 2020 election was done out of pride. He believed his opinions, and his will are so far superior to everyone else’s that he disenfranchised the entire citizenry and rigged the election to his desired outcome. That’s why he censored the authenticated Hunter Biden laptop story to ensure that his will was done over the collective will of the people.
Pride is driving the people who want to replace objective truth with subjective reality, those who believe their subjective reality is superior to the objective truth. Only the prideful believe they can change reality to suit their wants and desires.
A true non-prideful person, even when he believes he holds the moral position, would never use that position to mock or degrade others. A non-prideful moral person would attempt to build connection and unity with those he may disagree with, not highlight the difference to emphasize his superiority. He would attempt to bring them along to his side by trying to understand their perspective, why he believes what he believes. He would show empathy, not ridicule.
Whenever we believe we are the moral superior, we are not because pride is never moral. In fact, there is no such thing as moral superiority. We have lost the sense and importance of humility in our culture, and that more than anything is why we are so divided. Pride divides, humility unites. The prideful person makes it about themselves; the humble person sublimates himself for others and the cause. This is all brought to us by the biggest liar of them all, the one who was so prideful that he rebelled against God because he believed he was equal to God, the devil.
In the end, it is not ours to judge. I know in my life I’ve let my pride get the best of me far too often. I’ve just been fortunate enough where it wasn’t in front of millions of people, or posted on YouTube. Rather, it’s ours only to pray for and forgive those who commit transgressions just as we would like God to forgive our transgressions. So, I’m not judging Will Smith for what he did, I’m trying to point out the traps that are set by our own pride that we can easily fall into. And far too often, myself included, we become victims of our own prideful nature. We should not define Will Smith by this one regrettable moment. When the crowd was ready to stone the adulterous woman to death, Jesus told them, “he who is without sin, may cast the first stone.” Jesus refused to define that woman by her sin, the way the prideful so often do. Jesus brought everyone down to her level which meant he saved those people from the most egregious sin of all, pride.
Judd Garrett is a graduate from Princeton University, and a former NFL player, coach, and executive. He has been a contributor to the website Real Clear Politics. He has recently published his first novel, No Wind.