“Do you think that we underestimate pride?” This was a question that I posed to my wife, Kristen, the other day. It was a question that was more brought about by inner thoughts than it was from the conversation that we were having. Asking such questions unprovoked was not an unusual occurrence for me, and Kristen reacted in her normal way. She simply looked at me in a way that said “Where did that come from?” While her actual response eludes me it was something along the lines of “Probably.”
Probably is a good answer. However, why can pride be such a bad thing and why is this so overlooked? Honestly, I think we can all think of ways that pride can be a bad thing. We’ve probably all come across a specimen of the human race who thinks they know it all and/or that they’re the best, and that everyone who disagrees with them are ignorant morons. This can arise in pretty much any person regardless of belief or organizational loyalty. Now while this may be the extreme of how pride is a negative, the more common display of this is simply believing that we’re better than others. It may be because of wealth, looks, education, work ethic, beliefs or some combination of these things. The problem with this is that it often takes an over-inflated view of yourself or your “side” and relies on stereotypes, name calling, and inadequate descriptions of others or their “side.”
For the Christian I believe this takes on another dimension. Pride shouldn’t have much of a place in the Christian life. We are all reliant on the grace of God and are only Christian because of following Him and we are only able to follow Him because Jesus died on the cross for our wrongdoing and rebellion against God. How often though do we act as if we’re Christians due to our morality and by what we do or do not do? I’m not saying that this isn’t part of the equation, but it is not the root of Christianity.
The root of Christianity is the love of God forgiving those who were unable to make up for the wrongs they have done. Those people are you and me. When we change the focus to morality we can easily look down on anyone who doesn’t ascribe to our brand of morality, which usually has components that are purely man-made. That is pride. It is pride against God because we think that it is our morality that saves us. It is also pride against others because we act as if we did this on our own and that those around us should be able to get with the program. We think that we are better than others, and that is not the message of Jesus. His message is that we are all in the same boat and the only determining factor is God’s intervention in our lives.
To wrap up why pride is bad it is because it messes with relationships in two dimensions. In our dealings with God it can falsely reduce His actions in our lives and over-exaggerate our own ability to follow and please God. In our relationship with others pride overestimates our own situation and views and underestimates and belittles other situations and points of view. This breaks down any sort of communication and results in people who look down on each other.
Why is pride so overlooked? I don’t know entirely but I have two thoughts. First, is that our idea of pride is not always a bad thing. There is a sense in which pride is used as just being content with the work that one has done. Like being proud of an art project or of a child’s accomplishment. It isn’t always a bad thing until we start thinking that we or our child is better than other people. There is a healthy degree of satisfaction that should come from accomplishments, but there is a dark side to be aware of on these things.
The second reason I think that pride is so overlooked is the idea of truth. When we hold a particular view of truth we want to defend that truth. In that defense though we can often become proud and give ourselves the higher ground. This is done with the Christian who looks down on those who are not Christians, the atheist who looks down on any person who claims to follow religion, the tolerant person who looks down on those who disagree with their ideas on tolerance, or the person of one political party looking down on people of the other political party.
This may all be easy to say, but ultimately it can be tough to avoid pride. It is so easy to look at another person and say that you are better than them for any given reason. The reality is though that we are all different, we come from different backgrounds, situations, cultures, and upbringings. The irony is that the very thing that we’re so proud of compared to another person, may very well be the thing that the other person is proud that they don’t have. Ultimately, the bottom line is that pride divides, it divides us from one another as we look down on others lives and beliefs, and it also divides us from God because we shift the focus to what we do rather than what God has done. I know that I have to be careful of pride, and I can imagine that I’m not alone.