Monday, July 8, 2013

Updating the Pride Cycle

by Shawn Tucker (bio)

In the church we often talk about the pride cycle. To the side is a diagram that we commonly use. Starting from the bottom, we see how sometimes people who are experiencing destruction or suffering will repent and humble themselves. Such humility and repentance brings about righteousness and prosperity. This is called the pride cycle because of what happens next: people stop relying upon the Lord and instead become proud and wicked. This wickedness inevitably leads to destruction and suffering, and the cycle starts again. We often talk about the cycle as something that is clearly seen in the Book of Mormon.

The problem with this diagram is that it makes it seem like pride and wickedness are inevitable. It gives the impression that righteous and prosperous people cannot help but eventually become proud and wicked. I don't think that that is the message of the Book of Mormon.

So here's an alternative diagram. This diagram is a little harder to read, but here goes. You start in the very center, with the star-like object. This is the choosing point. In our lives, we are constantly choosing. We can choose to be humble or to be proud. We follow one of those two arrows. When we go down and choose pride, we also choose disobedience. Disobedience leads to selfishness. Selfishness leads to cursings, or the destruction and suffering of the original diagram. But that leads us right back to the choosing point. Sometimes, though not always, cursings (suffering and destruction) help us to become humble. At the choosing point we can choose to be humble. Humility leads to obedience, as we see in the top half of the diagram. Obedience leads to selflessness, and selflessness leads to blessings. But just like the cursings, blessings also lead us back to the choosing point.

So what is the advantage of this more complicated diagram? Well it shows how wicked people can become more and more filled with pride. Such people consistently choose pride at every choosing point. This makes them more and more disobedient and selfish. These cursings might make them hate God and others more, making them even more filled with pride. The bottom half of the diagram can be a very vicious cycle. But the opposite is also true. Those who choose to be humble become obedient and selfless. They are blessed. But when they are blessed they can again choose to be humble. This renewed humility can bring about more obedience, more selflessness, and even greater blessings. This could result in something that is the opposite of a vicious cycle— it is a virtuous cycle. There is one more reason why I love this diagram: it reminds me that at every moment of my life I am choosing. I am choosing whether I will be humble or proud. I know the consequences of either choice— they are clear from the diagram.

So this diagram raises these questions for me. How can I be more humble? How can I show greater faith and trust in my Heavenly Father? How can I be more obedient so that He can bless me with selflessness? Finally, if one looks carefully, there are places in the Book of Mormon where people avoid the negative and oversimplified pride cycle and instead choose humility. (To see this, I would suggest looking at Alma Chapter 1).

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