Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pride Vs Humility

Watching God work always sends shivers up my spine. For instance, I recently did a little self-examination and found myself grappling with character flaws that, to my earthly singular viewpoint, seemed unrelated other than they arose from within me.

Pride and anger were the two main flaws I found myself focusing on. It’s no secret I had anger issues for most of my youth. Thankfully, with God’s help, I got them under control a long time ago, but every once in awhile the red tide seeps up through the floorboards.

A few weeks ago I got incredibly angry with two business associates: one for damaging behavior towards me and my family - the other for damaging behavior towards others we do business with regularly. Maybe one was selfish anger and one was righteous anger, but both weren’t good expressions of healthy emotions.
Be angry, and do not sin.- Psalm 4:4
At first, I wasn’t so bothered by the fact I’d gotten angry in the first place, but more so because of how fast I did and how powerful the emotion was as it washed over me. One resulted in an outburst on the phone in front of my son. While he didn’t even seem to notice, it really hit me hard that I was sending a message to him that it was okay to be visibly angry and borderline out of control. While I won’t go so far as to say I’m a terrible father for doing that, it was certainly far from my best moment in Dad-ville.

Another flaw I’ve been wrestling with for far longer is pride. To a major extent, after countless hours of self-examination over the course of many years, I think my pride is more overcompensation for a poor sense of self worth. Both of my parents sent the message when I was very young that I was worthless and no matter how the rest of my life shapes up, that little boy inside me will always feel worthless.

To combat that, I’ve strived over the years to overachieve in ways that are far from mundane. Instead of going and getting a normal 9-to-5 job like my peers, I joined a band and started touring and recording. Certainly that would prove my worth, right? When that came to an end, I sought another route to stardom through writing. Between the two paths, I have achieved a fair amount of success. Sadly, I forget from time to time that the success was given to me by God. I didn’t earn it.

While my earthly parents devalued me, my Heavenly Father was trying to teach me I mattered to Him.

My beautiful wife and wonderful in-laws always speak love into my life, which has shored up a lot of the damage done early on, but there are times I allow that to fuel my pride, instead of building my confidence.

In examining both of these flaws, I’ve also spent a fair amount of time trying to cultivate a sense of selflessness. After all, it’s not about me… it’s about Him.
Disperse the rage of your wrath; Look on everyone [who is] proud, and humble him.-Job 40:11
Before I get too far off track, I’ll circle back to the opening and re-iterate how watching God work really tingles my toes.

In the middle of this self-examination, my father-in-law told me his small group, wonderful people all, were doing a new study called From Pride to Humility. I asked about it, told him I believed pride was a big problem for me and asked if I could check out his book. Well, he went one step further and brought me a copy.

So, I sat down and started reading it. When I came to the section on how pride manifests in our lives, it really convicted me.

Here are some of the 30 symptoms of living with too much pride (which in essence is living selfishly):

•    Anger – A person most often becomes angry because his/her expectations are not met.
•    Perfectionism – People who strive for everything to be perfect do it for their own recognition.
•    Talking too much – Proud people talk too much because they believe what they have to say is more important than what others have to say.
•    Seeking independence or control – often rigid, stubborn, headstrong and intimidating
•    Sarcastic or degrading – Belittling others is usually a way of raising oneself above the rest.
•    Voicing opinions when not asked – voicing these things without consideration for what others want/think/feel.
•    Minimizing/maximizing sin – What I did wasn’t so bad compared to what you did.
•    Impatience/irritability with others – Concerned that others might ruins my plans or schedule.
•    Not having close relationships – Thinking the trouble of close relationships outweighs the benefits, proud people often see themselves as so self-sufficient they have no need for close relationships.

Those are just a few that seemed to ring true in my life at one point or another, and often all at the same time. It’s interesting that I never considered any of these issues to be pride related, but they all stem from a variety of things rooted in selfishness.
“I don’t want to hear ‘Not so well done, my unfaithful servant…’” –Mark Driscoll.
Fast forward to the section on humility and sadly, I don’t see nearly as many points resonating in my life.

•    Recognizing God’s character – this person trusts God far more than a proud person.
•    Serving – Humble people are on the lookout for ways to serve and assist others.

While there are several others in the humility list that ring true from time to time, they don’t hit me when reading them with the same truth I feel when looking over the pride ones, which might even tie into another issue of pride:

•    Focusing on your lack of gifts or abilities – Some proud people may not come across as proud at all, because they’re too busy focusing on their shortcomings. This is still pride, as focusing on one’s self over focusing on Christ or others is selfish, not selfless.

One thing I can commit to, however, is praying God continues His work in me, which strips me of my pride issues, fills in the holes with humility and helps me to strive to always be selfless, always growing more like Christ and always shining his love in humility, generosity, caring and service to others.

If you could take a moment to pray I overcome these flaws, that would be great, but I’d rather you pray that we all embrace the humility Christ embodies. After all, it’s not about me, it’s about Him.

And, to take the pride/humility issue one step further, I’ll point out how this whole post has been all about me. ;)


  1. Wow. Talk about conviction. Pride is one of my shortcomings too, but like you stated, far more of a problem than I even realized either.

    I also will be praying for God to do work in me in this area.

  2. I think, except for a few saints that walk among us, pride is a true sin of the human condition. One we overcome by focusing on our spiritual and not physical well being. Each day, upon awakening, ask yourself, "Will I spend today serving myself, on those around me?" That one little reminder can have powerfully positive consequences if we make it a habit. Jesus said I came not to lord over you, but to serve. Follow my example. That is my prayer every day. I don't always succeed, but each new morning brings a new start. Amen.

  3. "Will I spend today serving myself, on those around me?"

    I really like that, Ron. Thanks for sharing. :)

  4. a lot think about a lot to pray about.