IT WAS DISCOVERED last year that presidential and vice-president candidate John Edwards had been having an extra-marital affair. When Oprah Winfrey recently interview his wife, I began to think back on some of the comments Edwards made in his 2008 public statement:
In 2006 I made a serious error in judgment and conducted myself in a way that was disloyal to my family and to my core beliefs. I recognized my mistake, and I told my wife I had a liaison with another woman and asked for her forgiveness.
In the course of several campaigns I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic. If you want to beat me up, feel free. You cannot beat me up more than I have already beaten up myself.(1)
The statement "I started to believe I was special," quite frankly, scared the felafel out me. It reminded me, uncomfortably, of the strange but unquestionable link between pride and the fall into sin. Many centuries ago, John Climacus wrote, "I have seen pride lead to humility...The pit and offspring of conceit is a fall."(2)
Likewise, Maximus the Confessor wrote, "The origin of all the passions is self-love; their consummation is pride...He who cuts this off cuts off at the same time all the passions that come from it."(3) In other words, if I strangle my arrogance, I save myself a lot of anger, lust and nastiness.
Is it really surprising that more special we think we are, the less we feel that the rules of morality and purity apply to us?
(1)"Edwards Admits to Affair in 2006," New York Times, August 8, 2008
(2)John Climacus: The Ladder of Divine Ascent (The Classics of Western Spirituality)
(3)Third Century on Love, no. 57, St. Maximus the Confessor: The Ascetic Life, The Four Centuries on Charity (Ancient Christian Writers)