|"Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." Proverbs 16:18 NIV
Before the Fall: Lessons in Pride
By Jennifer E. Jones
In Sunday school, my teachers liked to illustrate everything. Any major biblical concept could be explained with a felt board and Velcro paper.
I clearly remember how they portrayed a prideful person. It was usually a male with his arms folded and his big nose lifted in the air. He thought he was better than everyone else. His lofty attitude would always precede “a fall” as quoted in Proverbs 16:18. I wasn’t sure what the fall meant, but I guessed it included some kind of humiliation.
A man. Folded arms. Big nose. From the ages of 7 to somewhere in my 20s, that was my definition of pride. However, the older I get, I realize that a few details were lost in translation.
When you look up pride in the dictionary, its meanings vary and almost contradict each other.
- The quality or state of being proud; as (a) inordinate self-esteem: CONCEIT, (b) a reasonable or justifiable self-respect, (c) delight or elation arising from some act, possession, or relationship
- Proud or disdainful behavior or treatment: DISDAIN
- Ostentatious display; highest pitch: PRIME
- A source of pride (the best in a group or class)
- A company of lions
- A showy or impressive group (a pride of dancers)
I’m not talking about taking pride in your work or in your appearance, and I don’t know much about lions and dancers. The kind of pride that I’m thinking of is the destructive kind -- the kind that takes Christians to places spiritually and emotionally that they shouldn’t go.
Better than explaining what pride is, let me tell you what pride does. Pride is sneaky, because most of us don’t know what it looks like in action. It has many forms.
Pride makes you stubborn even when you know you’re wrong. A prideful spirit rears its ugly head most often when in conflict with others. You know that feeling. You and your wife are in an argument. She’s just said something that you know in your heart is true and deflates your entire debate. Yet, something inside of you cannot admit that you were wrong. You can’t let her win. You can’t show weakness. So you try another tactic, change your attack and elongate a discussion that could have easily ended 15 minutes ago. But you just can’t lose… at anything. That’s pride.
Pride keeps you from saying you’re sorry. This point is closely related to the last for good reason. Sometimes in arguments we say things that we don’t mean. Sometimes we say exactly what we mean, and that’s the problem. Whether intentional or not, we hurt the feelings of those we love. Yet, when the opportunity to apologize comes up, we hold fast to our pride and our tongue. We blame the other person for being “overly sensitive.” We maintain we were only being honest about our feelings. We do everything we can to avoid the fact that we have caused someone else’s pain. That (and only that) requires an apology.
Pride keeps you from trying new things. Some people never venture beyond the four imaginary walls of their comfort zone. I can be that way sometimes. I know deep in my heart that it has nothing to do with a fear of change. I never want to look like I don’t know what I’m doing, and nothing can make me feel more uncoordinated or inadequate than trying something new for the first time. It’s OK to feel uncertain, but when the fear corners you into a room of familiarity, you’re missing out on life.
I could name more. Pride makes you think you’re invincible. It will cause you to act out of character simply to make a meaningless point. It can make you disrespectful to people in authority.
Even shyness is a form of pride. Joyce Meyer describes self-consciousness in this eye-opening way. When you’re so consumed with what people think of you, how they will treat you, and what you’re going to do when the spotlight is on you, you’re self-centered. You are the center of your thought life. It’s the last place you need to be.
Simply put, pride is you looking at you for your needs. You save yourself. You heal yourself. You keep yourself safe from harm. If you’ve got such a handle on your life, where does God fit in?
King David pondered the same question. Psalm 10:4 [NIV] reads, “In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.”
Pride has to go so that God can reign as Lord in your heart. Hence… “the fall.”
“The arrogance of man will be brought low and the pride of men humbled” Is. 2:17a. Nebuchadnezzar says it when he praised God, saying of the Lord, “those who walk in pride he is able to humble” (Daniel 4:37).
The fall sounds painful, but I’m not sure it has to be. I believe that God’s humbling is simply allowing us to see how ill-equipped we are to make up for our own weaknesses. If you’re smart, it can be a quiet divine revelation rather than a Broadway spectacle.
Paul got it. That’s why he wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Paul understood that dressing up your insecurity in pride doesn’t make it better. In fact, he was happy to expose his flaws to the elements, because such perplexing situations gave God the opportunity to display His strength and power in Paul’s life.
The1970 film Love Story made famous the quote: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” That is absolutely not true. Love means saying you’re sorry readily, frequently and often when it’s not your fault. Love is the absence of pride. It makes you drop all of your man-made defenses and allow God to shine through your weaknesses.
Jennifer E. Jones is the Media Center / CBNmusic Producer who still has a lot to learn from the School of "Let It Go". Read her bio.
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