Has this ever happened to you? All of a sudden you encounter a word, you’re not sure of its meaning, you look it up – and then with that new understanding all of a sudden you start running into that word everywhere. It’s like you buy a new car because it’s so unique and then start seeing it all over the place.
This happened to me a few years ago with the word “hubris”. I was reading a book and came across the word and then thought to myself “I should know what that means.” So I looked it up in the dictionary. Next thing I know, seems like everything I read right after that used the word!
This highlights an interesting phenomenon. As humans, we sometimes are blind to things that are already around us. Then something happens and suddenly we “see” what was there the whole time. This experience allows us to see just how much is going on around us of which we’ re not aware. Most of the time we tend to perceive this narrow slice of “reality” and strongly believe that what we sense is the full picture.
Interestingly, this arrogance which comes from thinking we know it all is the definition of hubris. The dictionary says “Overbearing pride or presumption; arrogance” as well as “overbearing pride evidenced by a superior manner toward inferiors”.
There’s been a lot of hubris in our political debates in the past few years. Though much of the country has called for a toning down of the excessively negative rhetoric in the wake of the recent Arizona tragedy, even that sad event has led to political fringe arguing and posturing.
I truly believe that most of the people in our country know that issues are not always black and white, that there are perspectives beyond our own that need to be considered, that no one group or person’s opinion on a matter is the only way to see it. Most of us recognize that the challenges facing our modern world are complex and that reasonable people can “agree to disagree” on the specifics of our solutions.
Yet there are those people out on the edge who are vocal, loud, frequently obnoxious and all too often garner the attention of the media. These people believe their opinion is the only correct answer to the situation. They are ignorant of the fact that no matter how smart they might be they only have access to their limited perception of reality. They can’t comprehend that their view of the world is not the only way to see things. Their presumptions and arrogance in the forcing of their beliefs upon others makes them guilty in my opinion of the sin of hubris.
Hubris is a sin? What do I mean by that? Am I saying they have violated a moral or religious code (the standard definition of sin)? What is a sin? That’s a topic on which more has been written then we have time or space to devote today, nor do we need to go deeply into.
I recognize that the common meaning of the word “sin” in our current culture relates to our taking action that is prohibited or considered wrong. Some religions believe that to sin is to break the law of some external God up there in the sky who has laid down a moral code for us to follow. There are even some fundamentalist Christian faiths that say by the very nature we were born here on earth makes us a sinner no matter how good we have been– until we accept what they believe. Talk about hubris!
I can still remember taking my then teenage children to my parents church on Father’s Day. The preacher’s message was that we were all born evil and that it was the role of the father to force the sin out of his children. Although I didn’t agree with this message, I understood that this is what that faith believed and honored their right to believe it. My oldest daughter wanted to walk out in disgust and it was all I could do to convince her not to cause a scene when we left after service by telling the minister when he was full of! Outwardly I tried to explain to her that we should honor everyone’s faith, inwardly I was beaming that she could see through this limited religious perspective. If this belief is your belief, then I honor you but we will have to agree to disagree on this way of seeing things.
I have read that the term sin comes from an ancient Greek archery term. When a person shot at the target and missed the bull’s eye, it was called sin. That is, they missed the mark. I like this meaning of the term and this is the interpretation taught by the spiritual organization of which I am a Minister. Whenever we “sin”, we have “missed the mark”.
So if someone commits the sin of hubris, what does this mean? In my mind, one is guilty of this sin when they have convinced themselves that only they (and people who think like them) have all the correct answers. They have looked out at life, analyzed it (knowing that their perspective is the only true perspective), and judged their opinion to be the only possibility. Anyone who disagrees with them is not only wrong, but are judged to be an idiot for believing what they believe. They arrogantly cling to their beliefs and denigrate anyone who believes differently.
In the vast and infinite ways in which humans can show up and experience the world such that there are many many ways we can all perceive life, to believe that “your way” is the only correct way is to truly miss the mark. It’s both hubris and a sin. Watch out for others who are guilty of this and be careful not to fall into that the trap yourself!
Always remember—you don’t know what you don’t know! What did you notice today that you never noticed before? Be open to the infinite in all the ways it shows up.
Peace and blessings!
Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!