Recently God made it clear to me that it’s time to deal with my pride. I knew I could no longer excuse or dismiss the way I behave when pride rears its ugly head in my life. It was time to let go of it and allow God’s Spirit to determine my response instead of my emotions. I’ve been troubled with this for some time, unable to enjoy God’s peace as I continue in my disobedience.
Here is some of what C.S. Lewis says about pride in his book, Mere Christianity, Chapter 8 titled The Great Sin:
“There is no fault … which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.”
“…the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”
“Other vices may sometimes bring people together: you may find good fellowship and jokes and friendliness among drunken people or unchaste people. But pride always means enmity – it is enmity. And not only enmity between man and man, but enmity to God.”
“If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.” (I love that one!!)
“Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others.”
I went back to college to get my bachelor’s degree because “everyone” around me had one. Once I had that, I began noticing all the people who had master’s degrees. So I got one. Then, as I was working in my field, I noticed how many people had a specialized certification so I got that. Then I got a job where the majority of people had PhD’s. I made phone calls, eager to begin my work earning that degree. But I was tired – tired of attaining one level of education only to yearn for the next. Before I earned them, I wanted them desperately. But as soon as I had that piece of paper in hand, their value diminished: after all, I didn’t earn them from a top-ranked college. I didn’t become the confident person I thought I would become because I had them. When I committed my life to Christ, He showed me that His plan for me has never been a worldly one – the degrees were part of MY plan. But pride did provide me with a use for those worldly achievements: to try to convince people I’m “cleverer…than others!”
My go-to pride behavior is spewing my “wisdom” for whoever is within earshot. I say whatever pops into my head to show how much I know, to indicate the things I have or my position in life, to insure someone understands I am not wrong or “less smart” than they are. When I see a chance around people I’m comfortable with to expound on whatever topic has come up, my “wisdom” comes gushing out. I say things without considering the effect my words have on others. It’s embarrassing to put that on paper and my pride tells me I don’t have to talk about it; better to keep this to myself so others won’t look down on me or know my secret – as if they’re not already aware of it! I discussed thoughts on pride in another blog, but this aspect of it was one of those things in my life that I hadn’t yet identified as disobedience.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve embarrassed myself as I allowed pride to determine my behavior. But that’s not the worse consequence – I’ve hurt people I love. I’ve struck at people at their most vulnerable spots, wanting them to feel small on purpose. Lewis is absolutely right when he says “Pride leads to every other vice…” God has made it clear how pride is bringing sin into my life and I know I must hand it over to Him now.
2 Corinthians 12:9 – And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
I’ve deleted these last two paragraphs numerous times thinking there’s another way I can talk about this without divulging my weakness. But I’ll press on – as I become more obedient, it is a clear testimony of the Holy Spirit’s work in me – I can’t do this on my own!
I used to ease my conscience about my pride by telling myself I’m just insecure. But isn’t a big part of insecurity just constantly reminding myself of the areas in my life where I feel I don’t measure up? Labeling pride insecurity garnered sympathy and self-pity. I didn’t have to admit my behaviors were due to pride; I was simply compensating – behaving in a way that eased my suffering – never mind I caused others to suffer! My goal wasn’t to simply overcome insecurity; my goal was to be at the top, nothing less satisfied the true source of my problem.
The more mature we are in our Christian life, the more we abhor sin. There was a time in my life when I didn’t give a second thought to these things. If I said something hurtful to someone I told myself I was only trying to help them. Chasing after college degrees was only my ambition and a desire to be successful. Now when I allow my pride to determine my behaviors, I am deeply troubled. There were two situations in the past month where I didn’t even try to stop myself from speaking even though I knew exactly what was going on before I opened my mouth. After hours of embarrassment and contemplating painful apologies, I am thankful that God allowed me to see my sin so clearly. I’m thankful He gave me the heart and courage to apologize.
Romans 7:15 – “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”
I’m not naïve enough to think I won’t continue to give in to my pride. But I am being very intentional about how I respond when I feel the swell of pride come over me. I have been in a number of situations already where I felt it full-force and wanted so badly to say something that would puff myself up. But I refrained and the feeling from obeying God instead of responding to my emotions brings so much peace. And it has helped me advance my relationship with one particular person so that I am better able to show God’s love.
There are so many behaviors that we don’t often attribute to pride: an unwillingness to admit when we’re wrong; refusal to apologize; self-pity; arrogance; refusal to acknowledge how your behaviors hurt others; insisting that everything be done your way; refusal to listen to someone else’s ideas; the need to control situations and the people around you; focusing on others’ faults; reluctance or refusal to accept or even listen to constructive criticism; defensiveness; anger; responding by giving others the silent treatment. Do you feel the need to say whatever’s on your mind, giving no thought to the consequences of your words or tone of voice? Look at your behaviors and determine whether or not pride is at the root of it and begin praying for the strength to conquer it. You will need the Holy Spirit – there’s no hope of conquering this one without Him!
While pride damages our relationships with other people, the greatest harm is that it keeps us from God. Lewis reminds us that pride IS enmity (hostility) to God by man. Are you too proud to submit to His authority? Too proud to understand His plans are better than yours? Too proud to admit He operates in ways that we are unable to understand? Too proud to accept that God can save even the worst sinner you can imagine? Too proud to admit you are as bad as the worst sinner you can imagine? Are you too proud to forgive everyone who has ever hurt you or your family? Are you too proud to submit to Christian leaders God has placed in your life? Are you too proud to reject Christian leaders who don’t adhere to Christian doctrine? Are you too proud to admit that something in your life is not in keeping with God’s Truth? Pride demands that we be number one, the “main event”, even putting ourselves above God and His commands.
C.S. Lewis points out that pride changed Lucifer from an angel to Satan. He says it is “the complete anti-God state of mind.”
Job 20:6-7 – “Though the pride of the godless person reaches to the heavens and his head touches the clouds, he will perish forever…”