Almost always, those who are proud do not realize they have a pride problem. Therefore, they have a difficult time overcoming pride since they do not think that pride is a problem to begin with. They’ll agree they need to control their pride, like everyone else, but they do not realize how proud they appear to others.
“Inordinate self-love is the cause of every sin” – Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica
“The essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride… 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.” – C S Lewis, Mere Christianity
Pride is a problem for us in many ways. It affects every aspect of our lives. Pride is the sin that destroyed Satan and it continues to destroy many people, Christians included. As we examine our sins, we find that many of them are rooted in pride.
Overcoming pride is difficult if we do not even realize we have a pride problem. How are we to do this? By examining ourselves. But not the way we would think. I have given untold number of messages about pride and can guarantee that the people who agree most heartily are the ones who are the most proud. The ones who are first to comment about how sinful pride is, are the ones who have the greatest problem with pride. So to tell these people that they need to examine themselves is difficult because they honestly have no idea there is an issue.
We all know the story of the frog that is put into water which is heated to a boil. The frog will end up boiling to death because it never realizes the water was getting hotter, so it never jumps out of the pot. Asking a proud person to examine himself or herself is like asking that frog how the water is – “The water’s fine! Come on in!”
So what do I mean by “examining ourselves?”
We must compare ourselves to the Bible. But, what happens when proud people examine themselves against the Bible? They actually think they are doing well. They come across passages regarding pride and cannot see how that passage pertains to them. For example, Psalm 10:4 – In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. A proud person comes across this verse and says to himself, “See. I’m not proud. I seek God…” or Ecclesiastes 7:8 The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. Here she says, “I’m patient, not proud. I’m good.” So we reach an impasse because a proud person cannot actually examine himself or herself by the word of God. They will always believe they have passed with flying colors after they have “tested” themselves.
So then how do we use the Bible to test whether we are prideful? We stop examining our pride. Instead, we examine the opposite. Overcoming pride is not about becoming less proud. It is about becoming more humble.
How are we at being humble?
Everyone comparing themselves against verses about humility will find they fall short. Does anyone believe they consider others above themselves (Philippians 2:3)? When we begin to work on this one verse, we will find that we have been terribly proud and not very humble. How about Romans 12:10? Can I honor someone else and not compare myself to him or her?
We can take these verses, as well as others regarding humility, and determine to become the person who does those things well. In essence, I defeat my pride by becoming more humble. I stop looking at my pride and instead look at my humility. Overcoming pride begins when we work on our humility. Shall we try it? Let’s begin with the two aforementioned verses and we’ll add a couple more afterwards.
Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
Can we go through the rest of this day without doing a single thing I want to do? Instead, I’ll do what others want me to do. Maybe that other is my manager. Maybe it is my spouse. Maybe it is my neighbor or a family member. We really want to do our own thing, for our own good. Can I put that aside and do what everyone else wants me to do instead?
Have you done this already today? Excellent! But the verse does not tell us to do it once but to do it continually. So the question is not, “can you do this for the rest of the day,” but “can you do it tomorrow as well?” How about for the rest of the week? The rest of the year? Can you regard others as more important than yourself? Place their desires above your own. Your spouse has really wanted you to do this but you really want to do that – can you fulfill your spouse’s desires rather than your own? Could you take on extra work so that your spouse could take on less? Could you do that favor for your coworker even though it will mean credit goes to them instead of you and maybe even hurt your own work because you were taking care of their work? That doesn’t seem fair, does it? Jesus died so you can live.
Humility isn’t about being fair.
Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;
Can you give honor to another person without taking any credit for something yourself? It is hard for a proud person to give honor to the work or gift of another person without immediately thinking about how they would have done it themselves or how they could have done it better. It is hard for them not to mention themselves even when giving praise to someone else. For the rest of the day, can you praise everything that everyone else has done without additional comments? Can you just tell them how well they did, what a good idea they had, how perfectly they performed – without adding a “but” in your praise? No, “but I would have done it this way,” or “but you could have done this better” or “but that’s not going to work.” Just plain praise and nothing else. The irony is, that should you do this, whomever you praised will be shocked, thinking there is another shoe about to drop. They will think this way because unbeknownst to you, they have never heard you do that before. When you tell people that their ideas won’t work because (add whatever great, logical reason you have) you come across as proud and what you have just told them is that they aren’t as smart as you and that only your way will work.
Ephesians 5:21 be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
Can you be subject to another? For the rest of the day, if anyone tells you to do something, will you do it? Will you protest because it will get in the way of your own desires or needs? Will you reject the request because you have better things to do? Will you allow yourself to be under the control of another person? Too often, we proud people refuse to allow anyone to be in control of our actions. Proud people always believe their boss’s requests are foolish and that they know better. Humble people respect their bosses and do what is requested without hesitation, without concern for their own desires.
Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Can you serve someone? For the rest of the day, can you serve others who are in need without being concerned about your own situation? Not just to serve them, but to do so in love? Many proud people tell stories about their goodness and the things they have done for others. Too bad most of the things they have done were with the wrong heart and for the wrong reasons. Usually, their serving is not sacrificial but something they could do at a convenient time with no impact on their comfort levels. After serving in this way, they are happy to proclaim to the world the great thing they have done. Can you serve others in love? Can you serve others even if it means you have to sacrifice your comfort, your finances, and your time? Can you serve others without telling anyone about it, thereby receiving no credit for your serving? Can you do this on a continual basis, not just once but again tomorrow, and next week, and next month?
True Humility versus Pride
We will stop here, but the Bible (and therefore God) does not. He has given us many other commands on humility in His word. When we examine ourselves against the Bible, we fall quite short of true humility. Let us change that. When God places a verse in our lives that teaches us to humble ourselves, let us immediately go to work to change our ways and conform to His Word. If the verses above are areas where you know you fall short, then by all means, begin here. However, we are also told to turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile, to pray for our enemy and to love our neighbor.
Many opportunities arise daily for us to humble ourselves. We will find something different about ourselves when we focus on our humility. We will notice we are becoming less proud. We are becoming different people. Others are treating us differently. Now when we hear a message on pride, we shut our mouths (this is what the Word of God does to us) and pray that we are not like that Pharisee (Luke 18:10-13).