“According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites in comparison. 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… It is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.” - C.S. Lewis
We don't usually think of ourselves as “prideful”. My own pride never truly dawned on me until I was comfortably into my 20's. It is a painful realization that usually comes through humiliating mistakes. I wish I could say I’ve finally gotten a handle on it. But, those closest to me know I still have some work to do.
Over the years, I've tried to minimize the problem by distinguishing between “good pride” and “bad pride”. Like taking pride in my work, or my sobriety. Taking pride in one’s children is healthy, isn't it?
Not so much. If we take pride in our kids, eventually, we'll judge any parent whose kids don’t meet with our approval. And, just like that, the gap between "good" and "bad" pride is bridged.
The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that "good pride" is exceedingly rare.... if it even exists at all.
Here’s an experiment for you: Log onto Facebook. Read through your newsfeed. When you get to a political post that really bothers you, live with it for a minute. Let your opposing opinion fester. Glory in your opponent’s wrong-headedness. Like the Pharisee in Luke, get on your knees and thank God “that you’re not like other men”.
Of course, no one does that. But, for the 2 or 3 readers who are like me….
….What I just described is pride. Even if our reaction to the Facebook post (or our spouse, or parent, or whatever it is) is a legitimate one - even if the thought or behavior to which we object is indeed wrong - our reaction to it is fueled in some way by pride.
Actually, it's worse than that. Even when the specific offense is someone else’s arrogance, the thing inside us that drives the offense…. is our own arrogance.
It’s insidious. This is why C.S. Lewis’ commentary is so spot-on. We cannot escape our own hubris, even when our reasons for offense are legit.
It suddenly occurs to me that my wife might read this post. That ought to be interesting, since she knows me so well.
Whenever we have marital conflict, pride is the engine that drives it. There’s the predictable “pride begets pride” sequence of events. In those moments, we’re both committed to our right-ness. Even when one of us is lodging a legitimate complaint, the “yeah, but YOU” response inevitably gets thrown in. That shuts down the discussion, and the conflict remains unresolved. So, one of us gets the satisfaction of having the last word. But, we’re both the worse for it because the problem will persist.
And, it's probably my fault more often than not.
That’s what pride does. That’s why it is the chief sin that gives birth to all others. Pride made David think he could have Bathsheba. Pride has fooled countless despotic rulers into thinking they could conquer the world. Pride creates and sustains racism, sexism, age-ism, and every other -ism. It keeps us from forgiving. It keeps relationships strained. It leaves a trail of lost opportunities in its wake.
And, I am the chief of all sinners.
I sometimes wonder about the people along my path who’ve been the recipients of my damnable pride. I can never adequately make amends. What’s worse, I can’t promise that it won’t happen again.
Even after God has (repeatedly) convicted me of my sin, how quickly I forget. How quickly I return to familiar patterns. And, sometimes when it's too late to repair the damage, I am reminded of the pain I cause others because of my rebellion.
This week, we celebrate a baby who came into the world with no honor. Eventually, He submitted to death on a cross. And the cross He died on was mine. It should have been me bleeding and dying for my arrogance. But, this Jesus we celebrate, who deserved honor - instead He spent His life forfeiting His rights, and humbly gave up His life for mine.
There is no better antidote for pride than soaking in that Truth.