Pride and Debt | Dominican University College

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Pride and Debt

Friday, July 03, 2015

Half of getting what you want from life comes from wanting what you have.

Making peace with yourself.

Coming to terms with your past and present is difficult - but liberating. Self-acceptance is the psychological term for it. An act of the will that tells the soul:

“I love me: warts and all.”

It brings to light that which you want to change, as well as that which you are happy with and want to build on. Turning a compassionate gaze on yourself pays dividends in terms of healthy self-esteem. It is the precursor to positive and thoughtful action. Once you size yourself up, with the help of your God and your community, you can discover the next best steps in your personal virtuous project.

This is the distilled version of my master’s thesis in philosophy. It’s wisdom taken from Aquinas II-II, 162: On Pride. A marvellous 2 pages of writing that I had trouble doing any sort of justice to in 130 pages of drawl.

Aquinas is called the “Angelic Doctor:” a term that is both fitting and ironic. As anyone who has given him more than a passing glance will admit, the depth, structure, analysis and all-incompassingness of his thought makes you wonder if he was human.

Angelic does indeed seem like the right word for it.

Yet he is also one of the most “human” saints around. Very earthy. Strikingly real. Someone who was quite convinced of his own humanity and was wary of Christians who were running away from theirs. We run into trouble when we try to be angels or anything else than we are. This is his genius. That he was called “Angelic” probably has him turning over in his grave. He spent his life trying to be the best human he could be and adamantly preached against trying to imitate angels.

My thesis was less of a matter of trying to contribute anything to the world of intelligible scholarly dialogue in Thomistic studies and more a matter of personal growth and discovery.

Discover, I did.

It was a very rich experience. I had questions I needed to answer and now I am much better equipped to do so. I had the particularly rich experience of doing a thesis on Aquinas with two Dominicans. The late, great, Lawrence Dewan, O.P. was my co-director. His knowledge and love of Aquinas is acknowledged worldwide as having left a body of work worthy of the highest distinctions. His care for the English language was a welcome bonus. I learned to think, and write, much better.

I did the thesis to answer a question.

What is pride?

An appetite for excellence in excess of right reason is the answer.

Unpacking and digesting those few words can take someone on all sorts of adventures.  “It’s brought me to a better place” I say with addicts everywhere who are overcoming one sort of narcissism or another.

Being a bit of a serial student, I now have another question brewing:

This excessive appetite for excellence, I believe, is at the heart of the problem of economic debt (personal and societal). The link between pride and debt is an interesting one - maybe not worthy of a doctoral thesis but I intend to pay it more than a cursory glance.

This “puffing ourselves up”, pretending to be other than we are, it’s really the heart and soul of the credit industry. It’s what makes them thrive. You're richer than you think.


Probably not.

What will come of these questions?

Too soon to tell. But the threads of discussion and interweaving of topics makes for fun fodder. I do also believe them to be of timely and pressing importance. Worth a more serious look . . .


Lawrence Dewan


Lawrence Dewan, o.p.