In my experience of trying, or at least desiring to live a spiritual life, it has been my experience that pride is among the sneakiest and most insidious of the passions. Not that this is anything new; as John Cassian--my great teacher--writes, "There is no other vice, then, which so reduces to naught every virtue and so despoils and impoverishes a human being of all righteousness and holiness as does the evil of pride."
Today I was reflecting on an example from my own experience. It was a Sunday after Mass. I thought I had said an attentive and devout Mass, sung well, and preached a homily both entertaining and illuminating. I had a wonderful feeling of having found my niche in the world and gratitude to God for having got me where I was meant to be. People told me it was one of the best homilies that they had ever heard.
Then one man came up to me and pointed out how I had missed an obvious and homiletically useful point. He made me realize that my homily had been clever, but had not really engaged the Scripture. Through this man's little bit of advice, God had accomplished in me a twofold humiliation of my intellectual pride; not only did it cut through my self-congratulation at my preaching, but pointed out that my own cleverness had interfered with my preparation and made shallow my own prayer through the Sunday readings.
As I made my prayer of thanksgiving after greeting the people, I thanked God for the grace of the humiliation and correction, and prayed for the willingness to surrender to true humility.
Then came the next and even more insidious temptation, a thought rising as one of the logismoi if there ever was one: "Wow, I have accepted this humiliation of intellectual pride pretty easily. It feels good to be able to let go of myself so easily. I must be more spiritually advanced than I thought!"
Pride does not give up so easily. Such is the insidiousness of the worst of the passions.