Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
Is there anything wrong with feeling proud of your achievements? At work, we often congratulate employees for their good work, saying “we’re proud of you”. As a father I can remember saying to my son “I’m proud of what you have achieved”. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Why is pride such a big deal?
The dictionary describes pride as “…inordinate self-esteem,” “unreasonable conceit,” “an exaggerated opinion of one’s own abilities.”
If you saw the Disney movie “The Lion King”, you’d remember that delightful scene with Simba, who wants to be better than everyone else, and he bursts forth into the song ”I Just Can’t wait to be King”.
I’m gonna be the main event, like no King was before
I’m brushing up on looking down
I’m working on my roar…
No one saying do this
No one saying be there
No one saying stop that
No one saying see here!
Free to run around all day
Free to do it ALL my way…
Everybody look left
Everybody look right
Everywhere you look I’m standing in the spotlight
Oh I just can’t wait to be King.
That song is our song. Who cannot relate to that song? Who does not dream of coming into their Kingdom someday?
When we are young we really do believe we can do or be anything we desire. We probably had high ambitions of being famous or well known. I know I did. In our own way, I think we all want to stand out and be special, and it can be disappointing when you reach the point in life when you realize you are never going to be really special, even in your own little corner of the world, even in your own home maybe.
I’m talking today about the feeling of pride, but it needs a bit of explanation. And you probably know, part of the problem with pride is that it is easy to see in other people- but hard to see in ourselves.
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There was a funny cartoon The New Yorker magazine ran several years ago – a smiling woman was jabbering nonstop to a glum-faced companion. The smiling woman finally said, “Well, that’s enough about me. Now let’s talk about you. What do YOU think about ME?”
Interesting isn’t it. Pride is deceptive. As this cartoon shows, it blinds us and gives us a tunnel vision such that we see everything through the lense of “me.” It really says “I am the most important person in the world”. And that is pride. It says that self is the focus of pride. Pride wants to defend and advance self in every way it possibly can. And we’ve all been guilty of that sometimes.
In his book, A Love Worth Giving, Max Lucado says “The self-centred see everything through self. Their motto? ‘It’s all about me!’ The flight schedule, the traffic, the dress styles, the weather, the work. Everything is filtered through the mini-ME in the eye.” That’s probably why the Bible says that pride is a sin. It causes trouble for us and in our relationship with God and others.
Proverbs 13:10 says “Too much pride causes trouble. Be sensible and take advice”. And in Proverbs 29:23 “Too much pride brings disgrace; humility leads to honour”. I suppose that pride can be dangerous to our souls. Self-worth is healthy, but it is not dependent upon our accomplishments. Pride tends to link our value and worth to our achievements and performance. Pride says we are what we do, we are what we accomplish. God says otherwise.
In his book Mere Christianity, CS Lewis called pride a spiritual cancer, but not for the reasons you might assume. Not because pride puffs you up and implies superiority, but because pride has the potential to devour relationships. It has a distancing effect upon others. CS Lewis says that pride is one of the worst of all of our temptations, because it blocks intimacy, prevents us from becoming truly close to other people. It sets you apart and keeps people from getting close.
Not only because people aren’t going to want to be around you, but because when you are a proud person, usually you are also too proud to ask for help, too proud to admit you were wrong. Too proud to tell someone how much you need them and love them. Pride has the potential to isolate us and separate us from the very people we need so much. That’s why it can be such a problem for us.
How many times do we put up a wall between ourselves and others and pretend everything is fine because we’re too proud to admit otherwise. Someone might think we’re not coping, or we may sense we are a failure – instead of admitting the truth and seeking for God’s direction. Don’t let pride get in the way.
“Forgive us, gracious God when we are proud, arrogant, full of ourselves. Forgive us for acting as if we are in charge, and we are superior to others. You know how needy and fragile we really are. Help us to be humble, contrite, and ready to be filled with your forgiving love. Help us to empty ourselves, so that we might fully receive your love, your peace, your grace.“