I learned in a college Social Work class that many people are unable to properly identify their emotions. Most generally categorize feelings as sad, happy or mad. Becoming familiar with the other emotions we experience such as frustration, confusion, and concern helps us see the varying degrees of feelings we experience. Because many emotions are very similar to others, our behavior often doesn’t accurately communicate what we are actually feeling. For example, when we’re scared we might react in anger: My young child hides under the clothes rack at the mall and doesn’t come out when I call to him. After several minutes, he crawls out and I scold him. My behavior indicates that I am angry with him but I want him to know I was also scared and worried that someone might have taken him. Or I might have been frustrated because he does this all the time and I have repeatedly instructed him not to do it.
Ephesians 4:26: “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,”
Emotions are confusing both to the person feeling them and to those we interact with. We can’t always trust that we’ve interpreted our feelings correctly, but it’s important to know which one we’re experiencing and to understand how we behave in response to each of them. God reminds us that we are to be in control of our feelings so we avoid the sin that can easily happen during times of heightened emotion. But it’s difficult to control them unless we know what we are actually dealing with. I can’t manage my frustration over a procedure at work if I attribute my actual behavior to being angry with a co-worker.
There’s one emotion that we rarely identify correctly or acknowledge: pride. One reason it can be tricky is because most of us don’t tend to think of it as an emotion. I had to look it up to make sure it’s actually considered an emotion, as opposed to a mindset or an attitude. Psychologists have determined there are two kinds of pride, one negative and one positive. I would argue that since pride is an emotion, we will experience it in varying degrees, like anger. Thus, its intensity and how we let it affect our behavior determines whether it is good or bad. So, like other emotions, we must manage it just as we manage other feelings that can create problems if left unchecked. If anger isn’t managed, we often end up hurting ourselves and others. Pride is the same way: I can have pride in an accomplishment, a belief, my appearance or a lifestyle I have chosen, but when that pride escalates I will make decisions or say things that hurt me and others.
Psalm 10:4: “In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.”
At some point, I realized that pride was the main reason I didn’t commit my life to Christ. I loved Jesus but I didn’t want “those Christians” to think I was admitting I was wrong. One of the decisions I made because of this excessive pride was the decision not to attend church. I didn’t want people to discover how I was living because I didn’t want to change – I didn’t want to admit my lifestyle was wrong and that their lifestyle would be better for me and my family. I didn’t want to sit and listen to a preacher say things I disagreed with. Another prideful thought I had that’s surprising is that I didn’t want anyone else to think they knew God better than I did! Even after my commitment to Jesus, I struggled to attend church because I didn’t want anyone telling tell me I was wrong about something I had learned. Once I was able to tie these thoughts to pride, I understood the root of my problem and could deal with it. I literally told myself (I think I actually said it out loud) to accept the fact that there are people out there who know more than I know, who have a closer relationship with God than I do and that it’s time I started learning from them instead of resenting them for it. I saw how God wanted to use them to help me and I wanted to obey His desire for me to be an active part of His church.
1 John 2:16: “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.”
Pride is such a subtle feeling – it doesn’t overwhelm us like anger or sadness yet it can swallow our entire lives because of our unawareness of it. Pride prevents us from doing things we should do and motivates us to do things we wouldn’t do if we would properly identify it. It just kind of sits back there, conjuring up wrong thinking and providing us with excuses for our bad behavior, disguising itself as a legitimate weapon against others’ perceived efforts to belittle us. We tend to think of it as mostly a positive emotion, so we’re not monitoring it like we do obviously negative emotions. It’s difficult to know when we cross the line with pride. Since identifying it and working on it in one area of my life, it’s getting easier to see when it’s wreaking havoc in other areas of my life.
Proverbs 11:2: “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”
I hold a Master’s Degree in Human Resources. I am proud of earning my degree and for some things I accomplished in the organizations I worked for. But the fact is I worked in the field less than 10 years. As I write this I can feel pride welling up and I really want to give you a bunch of details so you don’t think I’m a failure. I want to tell you about things that happened that were beyond my control so you go away with a positive impression of me. But if I’m keeping my feelings of pride at an acceptable level, I have to tell you about the poor choices I made and the fact that I haven’t followed God’s plan for my life. When I’m in a situation at work where I’m feeling insecure about my abilities or intelligence, I will try to find a way to let others know about my education. I don’t share this information so they can know a little about me; I share this information because I know it’s something I’ve accomplished that they haven’t, hoping they conclude I might be a little smarter than they are, even when I know that’s not true! I work with some really smart people who have five times more experience than I have, and while I struggle with numerous aspects of our job, most of my co-workers are really good at it. My pride has led me to make some comments I wish I hadn’t made. I’ve been caught in lies trying to make sure others don’t view me as inferior to them. While trying to appear more intelligent by saying things I think MIGHT be true, I just look silly because others know I’m wrong.
Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves”
I have made a lot of progress in this area, but still have some work to do! I understand that I can’t use the fact that I have a degree to make myself feel superior to others. I can’t use it to communicate something about myself that isn’t true. I have that degree only because God worked in my life to enable me to get it. I must look at my accomplishments as resources He has given me to help others.
James 4:6: “But He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.””
In areas where I have conquered pride, I find living humbly is a very stress-free, relaxing way to live. When I allow pride to puff me up, my life quickly becomes a muddled mess! Dealing with pride can be exhausting as I try to keep track of the lies I have told or come to terms with the pain I have caused. When pride controls me, every situation brings the possibility that I might not come off looking as good as I want to look. I am learning to find my value in Christ, not what other people think of me or where I think I stand in the world. I am who God made me to be and I have to realize that it often isn’t going to look like what the world says it should look like. No matter what I’ve accomplished, what I look like, how smart I am, what I have, or what I can do, the world will never be satisfied with it and I will never be fulfilled by any of it. As I think about people I have known, it is the humble ones that I feel great affinity for. One of Jesus’ most enduring qualities is His humility and His greatest moments were when it was in full display! Don’t let anyone tell you that being humble is a bad thing. Moses’ humility was noteworthy enough that God appointed a scribe to add it to His Word and look at all he accomplished!
Numbers 12:3: “(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)
I want to live humbly. To do that, I must remember at all times what God has done for me and where I would be without His gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Romans 12:3 “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”