Each of us struggle with pride. This particular sin caused the downfall of Lucifer in heaven. Then it infected 33% of the holy angels. Finally pride passed to the entire human race. It’s so bad that a pack of lions are appropriately named after it.
Here are three truths about pride.
- A pride problem is a guarantee of shallow and unfulfilling relationships.
- A pride problem will block the resolution of every other problem. We’ll come back to that later.
- There are two kinds of pride, obvious pride and concealed pride. Obvious pride boasts itself over others and concealed pride focuses on past hurts and wrongs (both real & imagined). Both kinds reveal a deadly self-focus. But first, obvious pride.
Two of my favorite words for obvious pride are gasconade and supercilious. Gasconade sounds like it could be a sports drink that causes digestive bloating, but the actual meaning is far more serious. It refers to boasting—the elevation of self.
It usually starts in kindergarten. “My dad is bigger than your dad.”
“Oh yeah? My dad is smarter. And richer!”
Left unchecked it continues into midlife: “My minivan gets better gas mileage than yours.”
“Oh yeah? My blog has way more followers!!” (An instant fix which justifies my place in the social media sea).
Then there’s the middle-aged wife on Facebook, crowing about the marathon/5k/Zumba class/Crossfit workshop she just rocked, spurring a chorus of “You go, girl!” sentiments from her gal pals. Almost two gallons of gasconade right there.
Or someone may post incredibly gorgeous, professionally shot family portraits that make you and your perfectly attractive family feel hopelessly plain by comparison, especially if you have documented your kids’ entire childhood in grainy cell phone photos and smudged Polaroids. That brings us to concealed pride.
Concealed pride is cherishing past hurts and wrongs—hanging on to things that should have been jettisoned according to the Word. “Love keeps no record of wrongs . . . .” (1 Cor. 13:5). Concealed pride is decorated with negative thoughts.
“Poor me, my wife has hurt me. I’m going to marry my occupation and ignore her.”
“My husband has wounded me, and I’m going to make him pay by hiding my heart under a rock where he can’t find it.”
Or. . .
“The church hurt my feelings, and I’m going to make a big stink about leaving Christianity and becoming an atheist. That’ll show em.” Concealed pride is self-pity guiding someone to self-destruction.
Concealed pride and obvious pride also lead to the same consequences. Here they are, and it’s not an attractive list:
- Dishonor/Shame (Proverbs 11:2).
- Contention (Proverbs 13:10; 25:24).
- Humiliation & God’s destruction (Proverbs 15:25; 16:18; 29:23; Matthew 23:12).
- Sense of distance from God (Psalm 138:6).
- Loss of one’s position (Proverbs 29:23; Daniel 5:20).
- God will fight against you (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).
- No desire to seek God (Psalm 10:4).
- Taking advantage of others (Psalm 10:2).
That’s pretty bad, but there’s more.
Pride seeks to control God and others. One of the greatest evidences of pride is a controlling spirit, and when we try to control another person, we damage them. Here’s how. We jump between them and God—Who only has the right to control something as magnificent as the life of a person. Ask God, “Am I trying to control my child/spouse/friends/siblings/fellow church members /others? Am I trying to control You, in my prayers?" If so, we should acknowledge and renounce our pride. Good things come to the humble, and our relationship with God—and others—can be restored.
Do we feel irritated? Pride brings anger and wrath in two ways. First, it brings conflict between people. We cannot fight without pride, according to the Bible. “Only by pride cometh contention” (Proverbs 13:10). Two truly humble people cannot fight. They might disagree, but they can’t fight about it. Experiment: The next time we are involved in a quarrel, we should try this: “I would rather have a respectful (or caring) relationship with you than waste time fighting.” Then we fall silent. The energy will go hissing out of the conflict like air escaping from a ruptured weather balloon. “Only by pride cometh contention.”
Second, a proud person sets up scenarios in their mind (we call them expectations, realistic or otherwise) and expects that things will go as planned. When things don’t go as planned, it’s temper time. How dare life not live up to our expectations!
Perhaps most damaging about pride is that it will block the resolution of every problem in one's life. Take a man struggling with pornography or immorality or even homosexuality. He’s stuck—until he resolves his pride. Only then is he free to resolve the moral sin and return to a pure life. I think that’s why gay pride is so popular in some circles (and so devastating). It exists for the purpose of shouting down the convicting Spirit of God that leads to humility and then to freedom. Think of a woman struggling with materialism or bitterness. She’s trapped--until she humbles herself before God. Then she is free to biblically renounce her temporal values, and/or bitterness and enjoy freedom. God gives grace (or power) to the humble (James 4:6).
So pride has many built-in goodies: anger, control, obstruction, and injury (to myself and others). There’s one more—pride infects its carrier with blindness. It blinds us to the needs of others, and most of all it blinds us to our real condition. Listen up Laodicea, “and knowest not that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17).
So after identifying the problem in 900 words, I propose a solution in just two words. Humble yourself. Radical, I know. Some might say, “But that sounds legalistic. I’ll let God humble me—if He wants to.” Listen friend—if God humbles you, you won’t like it. He will allow trials into your life to break your self-dependence and expose your/our lack of righteousness. See Nebuchadnezzar—the original hippie (he had long hair and was on grass)—for instance (Daniel 4). God can’t make us humble but He can make us hurt. It’s far better to humble ourselves according to the Bible (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6).
We can humble ourselves by kneeling before Him; by taking our burdens to Him; by fasting and prayer, and by renouncing and repenting of our pride. God will then add His support to our lives, “and He will lift you up . . .” (James 4:10). The only other option is to fall.
I learned something about pride & humility in high school. One day I was in the bathroom. I discovered that if I put my foot up on the commode – leaned forward – put my elbow on my knee – and my chin in my hand – I could see myself in the mirror. It was a quite a pose too. Until my foot slipped and went into the toilet water and demonstrated two verses of Scripture. “Pride goes before a [foot] fall” (Proverbs 16:18) and “Where there is no ox, the stall is clean” (Proverbs 14:4). Not good, and that brings me to a close.
This is one of those articles where I try to lay out all the bad before turning to the good. It wasn’t that hard because we’re all bad when it comes to pride (some more than others). As Nebuchadnezzar demonstrated, there is a link between humility and sanity. I demonstrated that pride made me ankle-deep in gasconade (or toilet water). In fact I have been guilty of most of the above bad stuff except for being a Facebook wife. Don't go there—it might be supercilious.
Instead let’s go to our knees; go to our Father’s house; and go to our hearts and repent. Then we can go to heaven.
“For the LORD takes pleasure in His people, He will beautify the humble with salvation” (Psalm 149:4). “The LORD lifts up the humble, He casts the wicked down to the ground” (Psalms 147:6).