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Hubris by Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos (ClintJCL) via Flickr

Hubris (Greek: hybris) This term, often used in literary criticism, denotes haughtiness, arrogance or overconfidence usually resulting in some sort of personal disaster.

The term has a complex history in ancient Greek culture. And the idea crops up in the Old Testament Proverbs, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”¹

In the 20th and 21st centuries the idea of hubris has been explained through the psychological concept of the unconscious. For instance, most of us have probably heard of the idea that some criminals, at some level, want to get caught.

So they leave obvious clues or do things that appear hard to understand (like a wealthy Hollywood celebrity shoplifting in a store that has security cameras, or an important politician tweeting profane things).

However, they do this unconsciously, so the theory goes, because they actually want to face their unresolved issues and come back to their true selves and feelings. And getting caught in a silly, shameful thing is a surefire way of being humbled and brought back to oneself.

Theological explanations concerning why bad things happen to people, even seemingly good people, usually refer to God testing, strengthening or purifying us for everlasting life in heaven.


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