Struggling with Pride

Pride

“The Great Sin”

In one episode of the Big Bang Theory, Raj accuses Sheldon of arrogance. While funny, the clip aptly illustrates the pride and arrogance constantly oozing out of Sheldon. Perhaps, like me, you find Sheldon’s arrogance amusing because, well, you can relate yet remain certain your own arrogance pales in comparison.

While we can laugh at others prideful antics on television, we also must admit to the reality of pride’s severe impact on culture. And it’s not at all funny.

Consider the following all-to-real examples of pride:

  • Politicians pursuing personal agendas.
  • Business and financial catastrophes like WorldCom and Enron.
  • Attention-seeking TV & music entertainers.

Pride exists abundantly within Christianity too. Stories of pastors living in extravagance and debauchery along with the many examples throughout Scripture tell the tale well.

Pride touches every aspect of life and culture throughout history. And while the widespread preoccupation with self continues making light of pride and even seemingly promoting it, as Christians we cannot consider pride humorous at all. In fact, we must consider it, as C.S. Lewis did, “the great sin.”

An “Anti-God State of Mind”

Seeing pride in others is easy, but seeing it in ourselves… not so much. Consider what Lewis says to ask yourself to find out if pride is a problem for you:

“How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronize me, or show off?”

Our annoyance and frustration with others too often points to our own problem with pride by revealing a desire to elevate ourselves in some way above others. Pride is very much a struggle of the competitive nature within every one of us.

Lewis describes the struggle it this way:

“Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man… It is the comparison that makes you proud, the pleasure of being above the rest.”

Pride, as Lewis describes it, creates an “anti-God state of mind,” living within us as a “spiritual cancer.”

The Pharisee & The Tax Collector

The story Jesus told about a Pharisee and a Tax Collector proves Lewis’ point well. Please take a minute to reacquaint yourself with the passage found in Luke 18:9-14.

The Pharisees words and actions show that pride involves:

  1. Thinking we have any merit in our own abilities.
  2. Seeing others with contempt and disrespect.
  3. Placing ourselves above others.

Lewis’s describes this “anti-God state of mind” with these words:

“In God you come up against something that is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that – and, therefore, know your-self as nothing in comparison – you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know 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.”

The words and actions of the tax collector, however, give us a needed view of humility. The tax collector stands at a distance and shows that he knows he is a sinner and in need of God’s mercy and grace. He can’t even look at God because of the contrast between God’s holiness and the man’s own sin.

Identifying Pride

Fortunately, Scripture provides the necessary instruction for identifying pride in our lives.

  1. Ask God to reveal your pride. We must ask God to show us our pride, because we likely won’t see it otherwise.
  2. Earnestly seek God. And remember, eradicating pride is not a one and done deal.
  3. Seek accountability. God encourages us to seek others help in eliminating sin.
  4. View humility as essential. Christ’s example of humility sets the standard.
  5. Look in the mirror of Scripture. The Redeemer Church of Dubai offers a list of “30 Biblical Indicators of Pride in Our Lives” and gives a great way to use Scripture as a mirror for identifying pride.

Pride blocks our ability to see God (Deuteronomy 8:14). Humbleness, on the other hand, involves awareness of the heart’s true condition, one of sinfulness, hopelessness and utter depravity without the redeeming work of Christ. We’ll look at humility in detail In a couple of weeks.

DISCUSSION: What are your thoughts on pride?

Two resources in addition to Scripture played a tremendous role in this very personal study on pride: Pride & Humility by Thomas A Tarrants & The Great Sin by C.S. Lewis.

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How to… Be Yourself

Today’s post comes from the example set by my oldest son who is celebrating his 14th birthday today. Before I launch into a diatribe of how he can’t possibly be 14 because I can’t possibly be old enough to have a 14-year-old, let me just say, “Happy Birthday, Jonathan! I love you!”

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“Don’t feel stupid if you don’t like what everyone else pretends to love.” – Emma Watson

The quote above fits my son oh so well because one of Jonathan’s biggest strengths lies with his self-confidence. He knows how to stay true to himself. As I thought about why that is and how that is evidenced in his life, 7 qualities that describe Jonathan stood out.

  1. Loyal. Jonathan has a friend others seem to avoid, but my son will choose his friend over an invitation to join the “cool” kids. Why? “He’s my friend, and I like him.”
  2. Individual. Jonathan listens to movie soundtracks like Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean and other classical-style music. He doesn’t like the music most kids his age listen to.
  3. Simple. Jeans, t-shirt and tennis shoes. So much like his dad.
  4. Teachable. He asks for help with his homework as much as he does with the social challenges boys his age face. He gathers input, makes a decision, and then commits to that decision fully.
  5. Diligent. Jonathan sets goals and does what’s necessary to reach them. He needs little supervision.
  6. Honest. Jonathan has always had a very guilty conscience, even as a toddler. He owns up to his mistakes quickly and is honest with his thoughts and opinions. While he is still learning how to better mitigate those responses, his honesty is certainly refreshing.
  7. Humorous. He doesn’t try to be funny. He does sort of “collect” humor from what he reads and watches, and then he makes it his own. Jonathan just says or does what he finds humorous, and he ends up being hilarious.

These 7 qualities not only illustrate how my son Jonathan stays true to who he is, they also offer valuable insight into how each one of us can learn to truly be our unique selves too. At least, he has certainly taught me that lesson in my own life over and over again during these past 14 years.

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God has gifted me with such an amazing son, and I look forward to learning more from Jonathan in the future!

DISCUSSION: What qualities in Jonathan do you want to cultivate in your own life? How do you plan to do this?

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