Other "Thinking Drafts" and writing by Keith Drury --http://www.indwes.edu/tuesday .
From: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People by Keith Drury
(c) 1989 Wesley Press
"Pride goes before destruction; a haughty spirit, before a fall." -- Proverbs 16:18 (NIV)
Pride is a sinful attitude of superiority with a long growing season. But sooner or later others sense your pride and come to dislike you for it. Eventually you see it yourself.
Pride sneaks up on a fellow. Several years ago I was traveling extensively on our Church's speaking circuit. I would fly out to somewhere almost every week and back. It was physically tiring but emotionally exhilarating. I enjoyed being used by the Lord in so many different cultures and among a variety of age groups.
As a souvenir of these trips I decided to keep the baggage tag hooked on the handle of my suitcase. On retrieving my suitcase after each trip I would tear off the tag and leave the string tied around the handle. Over the years an impressive cluster of strings built up until it looked like a massive carnation. I used it as a prayer reminder -- to remember God's faithfulness in providing safe travel to me over the years.
But it also had an effect on others. Being younger than most speakers, I had always faced the attitude that I was a rookie who was getting a "good break to be invited here." Interestingly enough, as my baggage tag grew and bloomed, this attitude rapidly disappeared. Invariably the individual who picked me up would be impressed at how much I had traveled. I was impressed too, but hardly noticed it.
Then one day as I checked my bag for yet another flight, an enterprising counter clerk produced a knife and offered to "cut away these old strings." "I like them there... they're souvenirs" I protested. He shrugged his shoulders and checked the bag through to wherever I was going.
But as I walked to the gate, God's quiet voice spoke: "Why do you really want those baggage strings on your bag?" "Is it really for a prayer reminder or has it become something to impress others?" Throughout the entire flight I pondered His questions. Yes. I had to confess to pride. I had allowed Satan to take my simple collecting practice and twist it into evidence of a proud attitude. Before the flight ended that day I confessed to my pride and repented -- turned away from the behavior. When I got to my room that day, I tore those strings off my suitcase one by one and dropped them into the wastebasket. Pride had quietly found a hiding place among my souvenir baggage tags... actually, in my heart.
Some might say I was too sensitive. But I knew pride when I was confronted with it face to face. That's what's so funny about pride: we can sense it in others long before we see it in ourselves.
Do you have pride? Has this attitude sneaked in and curled up in some quiet corner of your heart? Putting off pride is a discipline we all must learn in order to walk obediently.
What is Pride?
Pride is thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. It is an inaccurate overestimation of our accomplishments. Self-esteem, even self-love, is good for us. Pride, an overabundance of self-appreciation is sin. It is a corruption of the essential self-love God expects us to have.
Pride may be the most deceitful of all sins, tucked deep within us, masked in a thousand ways. It has a treacherous influence on other attitudes.
The Bible speaks often about pride. Why? Because it is so common. This sin seems to be "natural." Some sins are more prevalent among certain age groups or in certain cultures. Pride knows no such bounds. It dwells among the young and old, rich and poor, east and west. If you visit a tiny backwoods village in Africa you will find pride. If you work in a gleaming tower in New York City, you'll find it there. Even among the poorest of folk, crammed into ghetto housing in steamy inner cities, pride finds a home. It is a common sin of mankind.
Not only is it common, it is widespread. Pride runs both wide and deep. It mingles with a multitude of other vices forming poisonous brew. Pride tends to bond with other vices.
Worse than blending with our vices, pride fuses with our virtues. The further along you are in your spiritual walk, the more likely you are to encounter the monster of pride. When you have overcome outward sins, even found victory over sinful inner attitudes and thoughts, Satan unleashes this secret weapon. No longer can he easily drag you away into outward sin. Perhaps now Satan is often beaten when attempting to entice you into inner sins like wrong thoughts and attitudes. So, he begins to flatter you. Satan reminds you how spiritually-minded you are...how far you've come...how much farther along you are than many -- perhaps most -- others. You begin believing it. Soon devilish spiritual pride mates with your spirit and produces a litter of other sins. Pride tends to mix with both vices and virtues.
We are not talking here about justifiable pride -- the sensible appreciation of fine work of craftmanship. An obedient Christian might take pride in his city, new church, neat lawn, or children (more so, grandchildren). These are usually reasonable levels of gratification in how things are turning out. If you are going to buy a handmade cabinet or chest you will want a carpenter who "takes pride in his work." This kind of dignity in a job well done is expected of a "workman worthy of his hire."
Just as there is such a thing as righteous anger, so there is righteous pride...a sense of legitimate satisfaction. The Apostle Paul was proud of the Corinthian Church's response after his first letter to them, and he said so.
However, like righteous anger, justifiable pride is a slippery slope. Our human spirit tends to justify sin. I sat in a Sunday school class in Pennsylvania where they were discussing how to tell the difference between justifiable pride and sinful pride. One fellow concluded the discussion with, "That's easy; your pride is sin; mine's justifiable." His comment was greeted with laughter, then the teacher moved on to the next verse.
It is too often true. We can easily rationalize our own pride while condemning our brother's or sister's. So, while we can accept a certain level of self-respect, dignity in work, and satisfaction in others, we must ever be aware that even this "healthy pride" can turn sour, self-serving and sinful.
What Causes Pride?
Pride is so universal it seems not to be the result of cause and effect. It appears to be stamped on the essential nature of humanity. However, there are some conditions which enhance the "breeding environment" so that pride is more easily cultured. These factors tend to cultivate pride. If one or more are descriptive of your life, you may need to be on your guard against this sin.
Once we've achieved success we tend to take credit for it. Others encourage us to do this. Once you've "made it" everyone assumes you know the "secret of success." You are showered with admiration, applause, and invitations to share the secrets which made you successful. Others hungering to succeed listen intently, take notes, and supply generous amounts of flattery. You've made it...after all, you must be smarter then everybody else, right? The more successful you are, the greater your temptation to pride. You eventually may come to believe all the praise. Are you successful? If so, beware of pride.
If pride lives in your heart, the more you know, the more stupid everyone else will appear to be. Being an expert in your field can make it difficult to put up with the "idiots the schools are producing nowadays." It's easy to forget that everything you know, you once had to learn. Intellectual arrogance shows no pity on the unlearned. It is impatient with common people.
That is not to say that you should avoid learning (any more than you should avoid success). Success and the ability to learn are gifts of God to be accepted with gratitude. However, as with all gifts, they can also become curses. The dark side of knowledge is the tendency to pride. "Knowledge puffs up." And, "A little knowledge puffs up even more." The most dangerous fool of all is the college sophomore who became a "know-it-all" in two quick years of college. Those who truly pursue knowledge eventually discover how little they know.
Are you knowledgeable? Watch out for pride!
Many proud people are not wealthy. Few wealthy folk are not proud. The prestige, power, influence, position, and possessions of the rich naturally promote pride. Fine clothing, expensive automobiles, and the exquisitely decorated homes of the rich all join together in harmony to laud the importance of the one commanding it all. He is likely to believe it.
In the church we love rich people. We scurry to please them, place them on boards and committees quickly after they are saved, and listen intently if they are unhappy with anything. We flatter, cajole, and charm them. We shower the rich with compliments and salute their handsome gifts to the church. It's as if we had returned to the Middle Ages. In this we sin. Not only do we break the commandments of James 2, but we lay a great snare about the feet of the wealthy.
We wouldn't think of lavishing a converted drunkard with gifts of 100-proof whiskey. We know of his tendency to drink and would avoid tempting him. Then why do we lay such a trap for the rich and powerful? Are we trying to trip this brother and send him skidding into his besetting sin?
Are you wealthy? Then watch out for pride. Pride is an occupational hazard of wealth.
What a gift from God, yet tool of Satan! An irony: the more talented and creative you are, the more likely you are to see how things "ought to be done." There are some people who could do just about any job they wanted -- at church or work -- and they could do it better than most anyone else. They simply know how to do things well -- everything. Perhaps you are one of those persons.
The danger of creativity is arrogance. Assuming that everybody else is a moron, you offer to everybody your answers to all problems. You've got the solution for your work, your church, your denomination, the country. People nod and listen, seldom arguing with you -- for you probably are right. But they resent you for it. You are marked as a cocky know-it-all. Your spirit oozes conceit. Unless talent and creativity are harnessed and directed into proper channels you will wind up on the sidelines of life, evaluating everything from your own superior perspective. You may be right. But eventually you'll have no one to tell. All will avoid you like the plague. You have become arrogant. If you are extremely talented and creative, beware of pride.
The better you are at something the greater the danger of pride. In what areas do you have talent? Is your talent natural or acquired? Is it music? Is it art? Athletics? Academics? Leading? Is there some area where you seem to have natural talent? If so, the tendency is to elevate yourself, as if you are somehow better than others, and this talent is the evidence of it. The performance talents -- those which are oriented toward entertaining crowds -- are especially prone to be breeding grounds for pride.
Are you talented? Beware of pride.
What? Virtue? In what way could goodness be a breeding ground of pride? Irony of ironies: the better you are, the filthier your temptations. For when you have achieved spiritual success, you may become a target of the most contemptible pride of all -- spiritual pride. With spiritual achievement, pride slithers in. You are tempted to pour contempt on all others who have not come as far as you. You seem so spiritual. And these others, these carnal Christians...why, they are so shallow and simple. If only they could grow up like me..." And you become guilty of a worse sin then they. If you are a mature, adult Christian, far beyond the "babe in Christ" you once were, thank God for the virtue He has created in you, but beware of the devil's newest trap: pride.
The Trouble with Pride
Whatever the cause, pride's results are devastating. The seed of pride inevitably produces a bad crop. Exposing its final destination may urge us to turn around before it's too late. Here's the trouble with pride:
1. God hates pride.
God hates pride, perhaps more than any other sin. He has resolved to expose and punish it. Pride makes Him angry. He has promised in His Word to bring low those who elevate themselves. And He will keep His word. If you are intent on pleasing God, you must be cleansed of pride, for He will not abide it. This alone should be enough reason to abandon all pride, present and future.
2. Men will hate us.
People love to watch the fall of a great man. "The bigger they are, the harder they fall," we gleefully say. Most folk secretly revel in the demise of a great, proud man or woman. But this is not the worst of it. It's waiting for the fall...the yearning for another's collapse that is the greater evil. Pride provides the temptation to others of envy -- that unseemly desire to see the downfall of another. The more pride others see in you, the more they will hope for your downfall. Proud people may have power, prestige, money, and influence. But the proud have few friends.
3. Pride ignites other sins.
It is difficult to commit one sin. Sin comes in clusters. Pride is especially prone to blend with other sins. At the very least pride will lead to boasting -- "being proud out loud." After all, once you are convinced of your greatness, why not tell others? But pride also leads to arrogance, conceit, vanity, and haughtiness. You will eventually become cocky and condescending, totally wrapped up in yourself. If pride is not eliminated early, it can eventually make a hated, egotistical person out of you.
4. You will undervalue others.
He who overestimates himself undervalues others. The higher and better you think you are, the lower and lesser you will assume everyone else is. Pride leads you to disdain others. Inevitably you will come to dismiss both the person's work and the person himself as insignificant. If you have the power, your scorn for others will result in your creating an oppressive atmosphere where you rule as absolute monarch -- at work, school, and worst of all, at home. Eventually you will dismiss others -- even loved ones -- as idiots, morons, or stooges, wondering to yourself, "Why do I have to do everything around here...can't someone else do things right just once?"
5. Pride produces resentment in others.
If you are a proud boss, you'll produce resentment in your employees. If you are not the boss, your pride produces resentment inside yourself. You'll say, "I deserve to be treated better than this. All they're doing is using me. I get no recognition around here." "I'm really the key to this place; without me, everything would fall apart." If you are proud, but not on top, watch out for resentment and bitterness. Either way, whether you are the boss or worker, pride produces resentment -- in others or yourself.
6. Attempts to impress others.
No proud person will be satisfied in being his only admirer. Pride drives us to all sorts of attempts to make others think we're great. The proud person will attempt to impress others with indulgent and excessive living. The proud man will try name-dropping to show how important he is. The proud woman delights in telling "power-stories" of how she wielded her influence or wealth. The proud person does not recognize how others see through these pitiful attempts to inflate personal greatness. He or she thinks their practice of name-dropping and their expensive life-style has actually impressed everybody. But the people are not fooled. How pitiful, the life of the proud.
7. Pride makes us "practical atheists."
Perhaps this is why God reserves special wrath for pride. In pride, we discard gratitude to God and assume that we ourselves have accomplished our success. We become our own creators and sustainers of life -- becoming guilty of the master sin: self-worship. Who needs God? We can do it ourselves! We've already done it ourself. Is atheism far behind? Is this not what C. S Lewis calls "practical atheism?" No wonder God urges us to put off pride!
Pride usurps the glory rightfully due God and others. Why do you have wealth? Success? Knowledge? Talent? Creativity? Virtue? Did you get it yourself? Do you think you really are a self-made man or woman? Do you worship your "creator?" Or do you have others to thank? Isn't it true that you have nothing but what came to you by the hand of God and others? Pride will tell you otherwise. Pride lies -- and then it utterly destroys.
8. Pride eventually leads to collapse.
Pride leads to overconfidence. The more we inflate our self-opinion, the more we become cocky, rash, and confident that we are "the exception." We are above the laws of God and man -- or so we act. The more successful we become, the more we risk. Finally our unrealistic life breaks with reality. Life comes crashing down around our ears. We've overextended our sensible limits. This is God's natural law. God has spoken: "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before the fall." (Proverbs 16:18) There is no such thing as permanent pride. It is bound to collapse.
As a child, I remember my dad's telling me the ancient fable of the eagle and the frog:
One day an eagle glided down to the edge of a mud puddle to quench his thirst. Nearby was a frog who had been watching enviously as the eagle had circled lazily in the sky. The frog hatched a brilliant idea.
"How about taking me up for a ride?" the frog proposed, "I've invented a way." The frog continued, "You simply grab the end of this stick in your beak, and I'll bite on to my end as you fly."
The eagle agreed. Exerting all the strength he could muster, the eagle took off into the sky with the frog trailing along with the other end of the stick firmly in his mouth. The frog was absolutely dazzled by the sights from the sky. His invention was a monumental success.
Soon hundreds of other birds gathered around to praise this new idea. The flock included starlings, blue jays, robins, crows, and many others. "Amazing!" "Fantastic!" "Marvelous," they said. "With this new idea, thousands of frogs will be able to see the great sights of the sky." They cheered the resourcefulness of the new concept. Then one large crow, obviously their spokesman, asked, "Who thought of this great invention?" The frog, swelling with pride, answered, "I..." (Splaat!)
So it is with pride. Just when we open our mouths to take credit for our success, we lose our grip on life and plunge back to earth -- to the mud puddle where it all began. Pride leads to collapse and spiritual death.
Putting off Pride
We have met this monster pride, and have come to recognize its causes and consequences. But, how to get rid of it? Do you have pride? Does this all sound familiar or strange to you?
If you are moving along in your Christian walk, growing in maturity, take some time for self-examination on this point. During times of such quiet thought we often hear God's quiet voice gently pointing out a sprout of pride. A day alone with God or a morning quiet time may give God the opportunity to speak. Most of us are so busy that a tiny sprout of pride can grow to become a full vine, entwining about all our attitudes before we notice. Give God a chance. Take some time to listen. He is faithful, and will convict your heart if this is an area for which you should seek His cleansing. Pray "Search me, O God..." If He convicts you of pride, take the prescriptions offered here:
1. Confess and repent.
Start by openly admitting your sinful pride before the Lord, then make a decision to turn away from it, with full intention to never turn back. This is confession and repentance. There will be no healing until you first admit your need.
2. Spend time with "humblers."
Some people are marvelously gifted at humbling others. I'm not talking about negative-thinking balloon- poppers who delight in putting people down with caustic and sarcastic taunts. Rather, I mean certain people who are clever, fast-thinking, and witty -- people who don't take others too seriously. Being with people like this can help you to quit taking yourself so seriously. I've known whole groups like this who meet for coffee break every day. Few who attend such gatherings will be troubled with pride very long. It just won't last in such an atmosphere.
If you know such a person or group, spend some time with them on purpose. It is hard to be proud around these folk. Their remarks will remind you of who you really are. Children are especially good "humblers." Adults don't awe them. They simply know you as Dad, Mom, or Grandpa. Like the little boy who announced that the emperor had no clothes on, they see us for what we really are. If you have no associates who humble you periodically, find some. Take this medicine; it will be good for you.
3. Occasionally compare yourself upwards.
Generally, comparison does little good at all. But the proud man or woman has gotten into the habit of comparison -- downward. He surveys those scattered below him comparing them to his own great achievements. These underachievers seem so puny from his perspective. He thus sustains his grandiose view of himself. The prescription: simply reverse this habit. Compare yourself upward. Are you a superb golfer? Watch the Masters Tournament. Are you wealthy? Compare yourself with some of the really wealthy people. Do you think you are the best preacher in your area? Sit under the feeding ministry of a great old "war horse" preacher and watch your "preacher-pride" wither.
I once sat on a board which was deciding if they wanted to move their offices from a small town to a major city. One fellow argued for staying in the small town. He said, "If we move to a big city, nobody will even notice us, but here in this town we can be a big fish in a little pond."
Sometimes our own importance is inflated merely because we've been swimming in little ponds. There is always someone, somewhere who is far richer, smarter, faster, better; or more successful, creative, and virtuous than we are. When we get into a large enough pond, we are soon humbled. Are you proud? Compare yourself upwards a bit.
4. Adopt humbling disciplines.
If you battle with pride, purposely adopt several disciplines of humility. Return some grocery carts to the store from the parking lot. Stop on your way to the office and spend ten minutes picking up paper on the lawn. Change a tire on someone's car. Pick up paper scraps and straighten out the hymnals after service one day. Are these chores beneath you? Try to think of several humbling disciplines you could start to continually deflate your pride. Jesus washed His disciples' feet as such a discipline. What could you do?
5. Seek cleansing.
Perhaps "putting off pride" is a deceiving subtitle for this section. Pride is not something outward we can easily drop aside. There are such things in the Bible. We are simply told to put them off, like old clothing or clinging burrs picked up after a walk in the woods. Pride is different. It resides within. Deep within. "Put off" may be an inadequate concept for getting rid of pride. Two other biblical terms may better describe the need: "cleansing" and "crucifixion."
Anyone who has wrestled with pride knows it is not easily dropped aside like a dirty piece of clothing. It clings to our nature, forming an alloy with the metal of our soul. We who fight it need something radical. We need cleansing -- a God-initiated purifying act in our hearts. We seek crucifixion -- the execution of this evil inclination within. Certainly we must do our part. But only God can complete the work of purification necessary to cleanse us of pride. And He is faithful. He will do it. God catalogs no sin from which His followers cannot be free. God's grace is greater than all our sin. Even a taint so deep as pride!
Now, what about you, my friend?
Do you have pride? These are heavy thoughts, aren't they? Exposing pride has not been an easy task. It's neither fun nor entertaining to read. But pride is a troublesome sin which God would like to remove from your life. And He will do it. Do you have pride? Any pride? If so, confess it to our Lord. Seek His forgiveness and cleansing. You can trust Him. After all, cleansing is His business.
Of course you should be careful not to become obsessed with this sin which must be expelled from your life. Sometimes we assume if all our sins were cast out of our hearts we would be a perfect Christian. Wrong. Each of these homeless devils would gather seven other devils and return to again occupy the empty houses of our souls. We would be worse off than before. Nature abhors a vacuum; so does God. Perfection is not emptiness.
Rather, you must fill your mind and soul with good things (Philippians 4:8). Virtues are much stronger than vices. For every vice there is an unequal and opposite virtue. For pride, it's humility. Don't you hunger for a meek and humble spirit which makes a completely accurate estimate of yourself -- neither inflated nor depressed? Do you yearn for the humility that prompts service? Don't you want to be always looking for opportunities to affirm other people, forever seeking to encourage, praise, and honor others? Do you crave this kind of attitude...the humble attitude which Jesus had?
You can have it. All this and more are included in God's plan for your life. Humility. What a beautiful trait. Is this what you want? Are you thirsty to drink in great gulps of Christ's humility? God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble. Ask God for an avalanche of humility in your life. He can cleanse your pride and fill you with a humble spirit.
Try Him and see!
1. Proverbs 8:13. What is God's attitude toward "pride" and its
traveling companion, "arrogance"? 2. Proverbs 13:10. According to this verse, pride is the breeding ground for what? Why do you think this is so?
3. 2 Kings 5:11. About whom is this verse speaking? What does this verse tell you about him?
4. Daniel 4:28-30. What statement should Nebuchadnezzar have made?
5. Philippians 2:3-11.
-- How are we commanded to consider others in relation to ourselves? (v.3)
-- What is included in "looking to our own interests?" (v.4)
-- In what ways was Christ an example of humility?
6. 1 Peter 5:6. If we intentionally humble ourselves, what does God promise to do?
7. 2 Corinthians 7:4; 8:24. What level or types of pride be acceptable to God?
8. Galatians 6:4. What secret is given here which can help us avoid both extremes: the inflated ego and low self-image?
9. Personal reflection. Of what can I be legitimately "proud"?
10. Personal reflection. If pride were to become a personal problem for me, at what point might Satan attempt to breed pride in me?
11. Personal reflection. What is one thing you could and should do in response to the truths you have discovered in this study?
-- An action to take:
-- A promise to make:
From: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People by Keith Drury
(c) 1989 Wesley Press
Only not-for-sale copying of this chapter is permitted. All other rights reserved.
To purchase full book or leader's guide, call 1-800-4-WESLEY (1-800-493-7539)
Or visit Amazon.com page for this book
To contribute to the thinking on this issue or to contact the writer e-mail Tuesday@indwes.edu