Pride and Virtue Mix Like Oil and Water

Watching Chain Chronicle has proven quite fun so far. This classic fantasy provides the viewer with a bevy of strong heroes, implacable foes, beautiful warrior maidens, and a Luke Skywalker-ish hero for its viewers to engage in “egocentric castle building,” as C. S. Lewis termed it in An Experiment in Criticism. This is a fantasy fully in the spirit of Dungeons and Dragons. It’s fun, but nothing within the story thus far has struck me as uncommon.

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Bruckhardt’s fall from grace counts as the most interesting event of the story thus far. From the first, my ears heard “Blackheart” when the seiyuu pronounced the knight’s name, and episode three revealed his transformation to a Blackheart indeed. The twin scourges of pride and melancholy oppressed him on account of the preferment Yuri gave to Aram. This allowed him to fall easy prey to the evil influence of the Black King’s demon. There is no faster way to hell than pride: the way Lucifer fell and the chief fault of Adam. Even the early Church Fathers wrote that pride alone suffices to send one to hell, even as humility provides the surest means to salvation among the virtues.

 

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Bruckhardt had what St. Francis de Sales labelled Senecan virtue, after the Roman playwright and Stoic philosopher Seneca (4 BC – 65AD). St. Francis claimed Senecan virtue was the very opposite of Christian virtue, because the former bases itself on the sandy foundation of pride. (Consider that it was the crestfallen publican who went from the temple justified rather than the haughty Pharisee in Luke 18:10 – 14.) As soon as Bruckhardt finds himself mildly chastised for his prejudice towards Aram, he begins to lose confidence in himself and resorts to blaming other people for his own faults.

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His shortcomings are not so much deficiencies in noble deeds as they are deficiencies in mercy—misericordia in Latin. Misericordia literally translates to “miserable heart” and denotes a heart capable of being moved by the weak and suffering. Virtue based on pride lacks the ability to feel mercy: the debasement and abjection of the incontinent and the vicious add to the vainglory of the proudly virtuous. The Senecan views weakness and sin as contemptible and finds no excuses for them.

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If one closely watches the fall of Bruckhardt, one sees that the succubus or whatever here only influences him. It was not until Bruckhardt deliberately takes off his talisman that his transformation to the dark side is complete.

 

In viewing weakness as contemptible, Bruckhardt found his own faults and weaknesses unendurable: his quick temper, hasty judgments, willfulness, and vanity. His method of dealing with his faults, blaming other people, was completely the wrong way to deal with them. What can be greater weakness than blaming others for one’s own faults? What is a greater sign of strength than picking up one’s cross daily and taking the blame for one’s faults while attributing one’s virtues and good works to God’s grace?

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In the end, Bruckhardt’s pride led to an all-consuming preoccupation with himself. Preoccupation with the self rather than God and other people is a very hell. One has no doubt that a great deal of the angst felt by the young derives from this preoccupation, which is made worse by our present culture of appeasing “No. 1.” To escape this self-constructed hell in order to pursue a life of thought and usefulness, one greatly needs the grace of God. And, no better means of obtaining grace exists than showing mercy towards the faults of others as we work to overcome our own.

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3 comments on “Pride and Virtue Mix Like Oil and Water

  1. Luminas says:

    Interesting article here, Medieval! Here’s my commentary for this one.

    “The twin scourges of pride and melancholy oppressed him on account of the preferment Yuri gave to Aram.”

    Well, sort of. “Pride” doesn’t sound like what’s afflicting him if that’s his problem— Envy is. I’ve made this point before, but I think I’ll make it again here. One of the things I really liked about Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood is that Envy was the most warped and sadistic of all of the Humonculi. And when Envy finally fell apart, they (Singular pronoun meaning “neutral gender,” which is what Envy was) died of suicide. Suicide in desperate envy of what they couldn’t be and have. And similarly…I never quite get the impression that a being that “wants to be God,” and “wants what God has,” is prideful. Instead, it’s almost more like the root sin is a feeling of inferiority and envy that uses pride as a defense mechanism, i.e. narcissism. If you’ve ever been a powerless teenager (And you had to have been, once), then you yourself should be aware of what actually happens.

    “As soon as Bruckhardt finds himself mildly chastised for his prejudice towards Aram, he begins to lose confidence in himself and resorts to blaming other people for his own faults.”

    Exactly. For me, “a lack of confidence in oneself” and the traditional understanding of the word “pride” are completely incompatible. A person with an egotistical confidence in themselves can’t be someone whose confidence tanks like this— They have to be the opposite, posing as the former. But looking at what Satan’s sin seems to have really been….It makes a great deal more sense. That kind of “pride” I knew too well, once.

    “In the end, Bruckhardt’s pride led to an all-consuming preoccupation with himself. Preoccupation with the self rather than God and other people is a very hell. One has no doubt that a great deal of the angst felt by the young derives from this preoccupation,”

    Yep. This is why depressed people appear to be three times as selfish as they were before the disease makes its appearance, and why when you’re miserable you can’t think of anything but yourself.

    “which is made worse by our present culture of appeasing “No. 1.”

    And this is the point where I think we differ. See…If you reject yourself and deny yourself even further when you have a cancer that’s caused by self-loathing, you just edge yourself closer to either megalomania or suicide. The reason that I often find myself empathizing with the Devil is because I remember what it was like being rejected at every turn, being always “damaged” and “inferior.” …..I remember how it was when the feeling was at its peak. How angry and cruel and sadistic you became inside. The irony of it is that someone with no self-love at all has the potential to become the greater monster than someone with trust in themselves.

    What cured me wasn’t rejection, but acceptance by others. Friends who loved me for who I was, warts and all. A job where my skills are respected and my weaknesses understood, so that I could be free to stop despising my own weaknesses and thinking they were the cause of all my failures. Their love turned me into a much less selfish person than I was, able to laugh at my own faults and acknowledge their successes.

    God’s glory becomes in many ways more natural and obvious when He kneels down next to you—–So grand and bright is He, and you’re this hideous squirming bug— and tells you that He’s seen the better, stronger you. The one who was humble and kind, reflecting His light. That He sees this you that you deny with every arrogant defensive statement…The one made to glorify Him…That is the key to finding it again, and being free of yourself.

    • That is excellent commentary on envy and how it can eat away at one–even to the point of mostly cancelling out self-love. Self-love can’t ever be really destroyed, but it can be so diminished and twisted that one loses even that sort of self-love we justly owe ourselves. Thus, some people destroy themselves out of self-love, because they don’t see the state of living/being they want for themselves in themselves. But, it is odd to think of what we term self-hatred as being motivated by a twisted self-love!

      In Christianity, pride and envy are paired as closely as humility and charity. This is because the conditions of pride and humility are weighed according to truth rather than opinion of self-worth: “Humility is truth.” God recognizes Himself as the most perfect, most holy, eternal, and greatest being in the universe and is humble. A human being says to himself: “For this particular good, I am solely responsible,” and he’s proud. Conversely, a human being might also say: “I’m completely worthless with no good purpose toward which I can be put,” and he’s prouder still. But, many saints have reflected that they have committed more sins than all the devils in hell and claim themselves to be more sinful than Lucifer, and yet manage to preserve holy joy in themselves. If they do pour so much contempt upon themselves that they go off the deep end, Christ Himself consoles them as you wrote in your comment. There is also a famous story about St. Francis of Assisi to that effect: https://www.ccel.org/ccel/ugolino/flowers.iii.ix.html.

      Love is most essential to avoid the lows of pride and the heights of pride–also the heights and lows of envy besides. When I wrote that angst “is made worse by the culture of appeasing No. 1,” I especially had in mind how self-love exacerbates it. But, gift-love, if you will, breaks the clouds of sadness and makes life worth living. Still, doing good is known to increase one’s self-worth and proper self-love along with it. And, few pleasures surpass the pleasure of good friends.

      • Luminas says:

        “But, it is odd to think of what we term self-hatred as being motivated by a twisted self-love!”

        Ahhh, but as you’ve so elegantly shown us, it very much is. : ] The two are linked like vines wrapped around one another, because a humble person is also a person who isn’t thinking about themselves. Because they don’t need to— Knowing that God loves them is quite enough. A humble person doesn’t need to feel “powerful” or “important” to feel loved, which is really what everyone wants. Power is as much about a desire to be loved as it is about feeling powerless.

        “A human being says to himself: “For this particular good, I am solely responsible,” and he’s proud. Conversely, a human being might also say: “I’m completely worthless with no good purpose toward which I can be put,” and he’s prouder still.”

        Yep. Because at least the first guy sees the world still as a place filled with good people. The second guy has decided that the world is against him personally, and so in his aggrieved state is more arrogant. (As if it were all about what everyone else thinks of him/her…)

        Reality is, as with most things, in moderation. Nobody is perfect: In fact all have at some point sinned enough (Internally or externally) to be called “monster.” But similarly, no one is completely irredeemable.

Legens, scribe sententias tuas.

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