Pride is the sin that deceives us. Its effects are found everywhere. It is the chief cause of human strife and tragedy. Pride is the original sin, committed by Satan resulting in his fall from heaven, and by Adam and Eve when they were sent from the Garden. All other evil can be traced back to pride.
What is this sin? Pride is an undue sense of our own superiority; it is inordinate self-esteem. It is the raising of ourselves above others. As a result of pride, our relationships with God, with others and with ourselves are severely affected.
C. S. Lewis wrote, “Pride always means enmity – it is hatred. And not only between man and man, but enmity (hatred) to God. … A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you. … As long as you are proud, you cannot know God (experientially at that point).”1
We are God’s creation. He intricately designed us and brought each of us into being. In every way God is vastly superior to us. He is infinite; we are finite. He is righteous; we have sinned and are unrighteous. He is wise; we are foolish.
When we are proud, we deliberately choose not to acknowledge God’s Lordship in our lives. Instead, we exalt our own way of doing things, and we say to God, “I’ll do this my way. Don’t interfere in my life.” But if we do not know that God is immeasurably superior to ourselves, then we cannot know Him at all (personally).
Pride alienates us from others. If we judge others and deem them to be inferior to us, we become crippled in our ability to relate to them. Pride wrecks relationships, setting husband against wife, parent against child, friend against friend, worker against boss. In our pride we can become isolated and alone.
Pride also wreaks havoc in our own lives. According to the book of Proverbs, there is more hope for a fool than for a proud person.2 Indeed, a proud person is the biggest fool of all because pride will bring him low, leading to his ultimate destruction.3 My wife, Sally, and I had reached another impasse on how to respond to our children. When disagreements arose, we would argue with each other, and before long all sorts of other issues were dragged in. Finally Sally told me that I was allowing our disagreement to turn into a judgment of her and that I was becoming proud. My focus was no longer on what was best for the family, but on getting my own way. It was hard to admit at first, but she was right.
The symptoms of pride can be likened to those of cancer. At first we are unaware of the cancer, and it grows silently inside our bodies. Then we realize that something isn’t right. If we ignore it, the cancer becomes a consuming and potentially lethal disease.
So it is with pride. Once we recognize the symptoms of pride in our lives, we have two choices: we can ignore the symptoms and let pride destroy us, or we can go to God and ask Him to show us the extent of the problem and trust Him to help us deal with it. The symptoms of pride include:
- Stealing from God’s glory. To have an honest estimation and understanding of our God-given gifts and abilities is not pride. Such an assessment is necessary if we are to develop the talents that God has invested in us. However, it is a dangerous form of pride that causes us to take credit for the gifts that God has given us.
- Self-centeredness. If, in the exercising of our spiritual gifts and natural abilities, we ride over the feelings of others and insist on getting our own way, then we need to reexamine our “gifts.” If we are not using our abilities to bring blessing to others, then we are misusing them.
- A demanding spirit. The pride of a demanding person is revealed by his constantly bringing attention to the things that have not been done for him, rather than the things that have been done. In demanding that people do things our way (all the time), we are saying, “I am superior to you.”
- Superiority. Pride causes us to believe we are more important than others and to look down on them. Such haughtiness reveals a belief that somehow we are closer to God or better than other people because of our doctrines, actions and intrinsic worth.
- Sarcasm. Caustic comments may be socially acceptable, but they have no place in the Kingdom of God. Sarcasm is a thinly veiled attempt to impress people by highlighting the faults of others in a pseudo-humorous way. Through sarcasm we judge and reject people, forgetting that they too are made in the image of God.
- A judgmental and critical attitude. Jesus died to make us one, but (destructive) criticism divides and destroys churches. People who are critical and (unbiblically) judgmental have difficulty seeing the good in others and, when they are confronted with it, are quick to negate it through comparison. In judging (unbiblically) another person we are saying, “I can do it better. Why don’t they just move over and let me do it?”
- Impatience. By being impatient we signify that our ideas, projects, programs and schedules are more important than those of other people. Many times we have to wait on others, but becoming impatient at such times, regardless of who is at fault, is never justified.
- An unteachable spirit. None of us is above the need for correction in some area of our lives. When we are confronted, do we listen? Or do we ignore what that person is telling us? Do we accept his reproof? Or do we become aloof and resentful that he would dare to correct us? If we can lay aside our pride, we will benefit from the insights of many wise and godly people. However, if we are unwilling to accept this kind of correction, we have become unteachable.
- Self-pity. Self-pity results when we cling to our hurts, frustrations and disappointments instead of turning our problems over to the Lord. We do this because we enjoy the attention that comes when someone feels sorry for us and because we think we can do a better job of dealing with our problems than God can.
Is it possible, given the deceitful human heart and the deceptive nature of pride, to have victory over pride? Perhaps our goal should be not just freedom from pride but the opposite of pride: humility. Our focus should be Christlikeness, the essence of humility. Our concern then would be focused not only on getting rid of something but on yielding to Christ so that He can make us like Himself.
We can begin to define humility by what it is not. Humility is not being embarrassed by the disclosure of our worst sins. It does not come from being shamed publicly. Humility is not a form of self-hatred, nor is it a low estimate of our gifts and abilities. It is not aesthetic withdrawal from the world, and it is not a mystical experience.
What then is humility? Humility is dependence on God. Humility is acknowledging our absolute and total dependence on God, the Creator, and daily looking to Him as the one true Source of forgiveness and mercy, as the One who gives counsel and direction in every decision in life. Humility is a longing in our hearts for a relationship and communion with God.
Humility is the willingness to be honest with ourselves and with others, to be known for who we really are. We don’t need to tell everyone everything about ourselves. But we can come to terms with our fears and failures, and share them with godly people who are close to us.
Honesty about our shortcomings should be a way of life. For example, if we fail to fulfill our responsibilities at work, we should admit that we were wrong and ask for forgiveness. If we offend a family member, we should humble ourselves and apologize for our insensitivity and impatience.
Humility is a realistic/biblical view of ourselves.
Consider the importance that God’s Word puts on humility:
“Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”4
“For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the afflicted ones (humble) with salvation.”5
“God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”6
Many years ago I came to a crisis point in my relationship with others. I had deeply hurt several close friends, shown disrespect for my wife and was being dealt with by God in many areas of my relationship with Him.
Acknowledging my sin, I prayed, “Lord, I desperately need You in my life. I have come to the end of myself. I ask You to use this time to bring me to a place of brokenness. Do anything You need to do in my life to produce Christlikeness and humility in me. I ask You to be ruthless in dealing with my sin. No matter how long it takes or what You have to do, I welcome Your loving judgment in my heart. No matter what the cost, Lord, I commit myself to go Your way. I ask for no shortcuts to my growth.”
I decided to take the attitude that in every conflict I had with others from that point on, I would believe that God wanted to use that conflict to show me what was in my heart.
Ruthless honesty about ourselves is the only way to break the pattern of pride and deception. Humility brings liberty, healing, truth, growth, and reconciliation to God and others. We cannot force humility to grow, but we can choose to humble ourselves and, in so doing, welcome the indwelling Christ to rule supreme in our lives.
(1) From “Mere Christianity,” by C. S. Lewis, © 1943, 1945, 1952 C. S. Lewis Pte Ltd., The Macmillan Company, New York, New York; Win. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd., London. England. (2) Proverbs 26:12. (3) Proverbs 16:18; 29:23. (4) Matthew 18:4, NASB. (5) Psalm 149:4, NASB. (6) James 4:6, NASB.
Floyd McClung Jr., DECISION