Pride is dangerous. The saying “pride goes before the fall” is often quoted, but that is not what the verse actually says. The verse is Proverbs 16:18 and it says, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” That’s a pretty intense warning. It doesn’t say, “Those who are prideful will soon be humbled,” or something gentle like that. It says, “Pride goes before destruction.”
Pride and arrogance are often defined as thinking you‘re better than someone else, which is accurate, but that’s only a small part of what pride encompasses. I think the easiest way to define pride is by defining its counterpart: humility. A good definition of humility is this: seeing yourself accurately and seeing God accurately. So if humility is seeing yourself accurately, pride could be defined as seeing yourself inaccurately, not just seeing yourself as better than someone else.
Pride loves to disguise itself as something innocent or even honorable. These subtle forms of pride are easy to miss and easy to habitually practice. Here are three of the most common I’ve noticed in my own life:
As I said earlier, pride is often thought of as haughtiness, but that’s only half of the picture. Many (in an attempt to appear humble) look at themselves and speak about themselves as if they are less-than or beneath everyone else. This may even flow from a genuine desire for humility. But as I stated earlier, humility is seeing yourself accurately.
Jesus, who was the most humble human being to ever live, went around telling everyone He was the Son of God. With the way our culture perceives pride, that seems like an extremely prideful statement, but it wasn’t. Why? Because it was the truth. Jesus knew who He was and lived like it. In the same way, humility is seeing yourself as God sees you. Having confidence in who you are is not the same as cockiness.
There are many Christians who stay in their place of brokenness because they think that it’s humble to act helpless. They say, “Oh, I will never be able to break this stronghold in my life. I will never become anything. But God is helping me get by.” First of all, we were never created to get by. We have been created to conquer through the power of the Holy Spirit. Secondly, this mindset is nothing but the sin of unbelief. It devalues the power of the Holy Spirit.
So how is constant self-criticism pride? By constantly seeing ourselves as less than, we firstly cheapen the fact that God created us and we also cheapen Christ’s work on the Cross. We are saying that we think we know who we are and what we are capable of better than God does. We don’t take God at His Word because we think we know better than He does. That’s pride. Self-criticism is not entirely prideful (it is often simply harmful and unhealthy), but if we refuse to respond in faith to what God’s Word says about us, we can quickly fall into stubbornness and pride.
#2 The Fear of Man
This form of pride often masquerades itself under the innocent guise of shyness. Being afraid of what other people think of you and constantly trying not to offend other people comes off with an air of humility. It makes us look like we’re trying to keep the peace and keep from offending others. Often, we see this as a personality trait.
Where pride sneaks in is that the motive behind trying not to offend people is completely based off of trying to make people like us. It turns into an ego issue. Though we may tell ourselves our motive is to keep from offending others, often the root behind it is our appearance.
Fear of man is present when we are unwilling to take risks. Whether it’s sharing the gospel or standing up for the truth, we become unwilling to risk our popularity. Once again, pride subtly finds its way in.
Anxiety is probably one of the last things you would think of when it comes to a conversation about pride, but as stated earlier, these three things easily go unnoticed. The definition of anxiety is: a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. The key phrase here is worry about an uncertain outcome (now, I am not talking about a clinical mental condition, but the everyday anxiety and worry that we all experience).
As humans, we worry. It’s a natural part of life. You worry about hundreds of things throughout the course of a day. We persist in our anxiety despite the fact that God tells us 365 times in His Word not to fear, one time for every day of the year.
The Apostle James speaks to this subject saying, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:13-15).
We make all of these elaborate plans and when they don’t turn out the way we thought, we worry and complain to God saying, “God, this isn’t the way things are supposed to be going.” But in reality, we don’t know how things are “supposed to be going,” only God does. How is this pride? Well, by worrying we’re saying we think we have a better idea of how things should turn out than God does. And not only that, but we are saying that we have more faith in the way we planned things out and in our own ability than we have in God’s plan and his ability to take care of us. Pride once more.
On the other hand, peace is the result of a combination of faith and humility. We humbly come before God, saying His plan and ways are undoubtedly superior to ours and then in faith we trust that everything will work together for our good (Romans 8:28). The Word says in Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.” Our plans will come and go and we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but we can humbly rest in knowing that God does.
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