All sin is selfish in nature. Sin is literally centered on the letter I. When we sin, we don’t do it for the good of someone else or for others benefit. Sin is not benevolent or uplifting to someone else. Sin is all about how it makes us feel and what is in it for us. Sin is self-centered. Pride is also centered around self. I can be found in the middle of pride just like I am in the middle of sin. Let’s take a look at what pride is and how it truly is the most deadly of all the monsters under my skin.
Pride is defined as a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.[i] It is the feeling that you get from accomplishment. It is the way you see yourself in moments of success. It can even be a feeling that you did all you could do, even in the face of a failure. You can have pride in defeat.
Pride is not just selfish. We can have pride in others, when they succeed or show actions of merit. We can be proud of groups of people, like sports teams, civic groups and co-workers. Pride is not always a negative trait. It is good to have pride in your work and to appreciate the things that you have been able to earn and accomplish. It is good to show others that you are proud of them and the things that they have done. Pride can be positive. However, the thing that makes pride positive is the attitude and motivations behind it.
Pride is about balance: A balance between a job well done and a gratitude for the ability to do the job. It is a balance between having the right amount of “I did that” and “I am blessed to be able to do that.” Pride is best presented with humility. With pride on one side of the scale and humility on the other, we can find the proper balance.
Pride becomes a negative when we begin to put too much of the focus on ourselves. Pride will begin to cause us to think that we are deserving of people’s praise. Pride will move our focus away from a job well done to a focus on ourselves and inflating our ego and value of our selves. Cocky attitudes, rudeness, crude and cruel talk, and entitlement mentality all flow out of pride. When we begin to put ourselves into the center of our focus, we begin to become the center of our lives.
The ultimate sin of pride is to remove God from the center of our lives and to replace him with ourselves. Pride is idolatry, and we become the idol of our worship. Pride moves God out of focus and moves our lives into the center of our focus. Our needs trump his commands. Our desires override his warnings. Our dreams overtake his direction. Pride makes our lives about I instead of Him. Note, you cannot spell him without I in the middle either. The best place that we can find ourselves is in the center of Him, not the center of sin or pride.
“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.” ― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Pride is also subtle. Pride grows slowly over time. Most of us don’t just become prideful and full of ourselves. There have to be many moments of deciding that we are worthy to be praised and that we deserve to be rewarded or acknowledged. The fact is that we may deserve it, but it has to come from the right source. As a young person living at home there was nothing better than my Dad noticing that I had done something worthy of note. When he noticed it made me proud. However, it was always frustrating when I wanted the praise but got correction or suggestions of how to do better instead. I was upset, but did not understand that my father was teaching me humility balanced with pride. It is okay to feel we have done a good job, not live as if we deserve it. We can be proud of our work, but also look at it with an eye for improvement.
Pride is also hard to point out to others. When you tell someone that they are prideful, they always deny it. Pride blinds us to our own pride. We cannot see how prideful we have become because in our minds we deserve the praise. We have earned it. We don’t see the way that our focus has shifted from the work being done to the one doing the work.
Since pride is such a universal problem, it is easy to find many examples of it throughout history. The Bible is full of stories and proverbs that speak of pride. In our next post we will begin to pour through the verses to see what we can discover about pride and about ourselves.
[i] The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.