Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Paradox of Invisible Pride

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We all know that pride is dangerous.  “Pride goes before destruction,” the Bible says.  The problem with pride, though, is that it’s so easy; it almost comes naturally.  In fact, pride is incredibly common – so much so that everyone struggles with it.

However, we tend to have a very limited concept of pride.  Sure, we can spot the obvious forms like arrogance and boastfulness, but when it comes to finding the deep pride within ourselves, we often completely miss it. 

In this way, pride is ironic.  The more pride you have, the less you see.  There are a myriad of manifestations of pride that seem to escape our sight; take an honest look at your own heart as we discuss three of the most undetectable:

1)  The Pride of Hardship

James 1:2-3 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”  The Lord allows trials in our lives to test our faith, producing in us the fruit of the Spirit, such as patience and joy.  For this reason, we are to rejoice in times of hardship, because we know that God will work everything together for good (Romans 8:28).

However, the temptation for Christians when we suffer, whatever the means, is to become pleased with ourselves.  While it may very well be true that we are under trials for a good reason, we assume that it is because of our own faithfulness, looking at those around us who are not experiencing such testing and subconsciously claiming ourselves to be the “better Christians.” 

And worse yet, we feed off of the sympathy of others, actually desiring hardship so that we can bask in the pity we receive!  This is a far cry from “boasting in our infirmities” (2 Corinthians 2:9).

The reason why we so often fail to recognize this type of pride is because we make pride practically excusable in such situations.  When brought low by suffering, who would dare to think that pride would even be possible?  Yet it is in our lowest moments that pride has the greatest appeal and the subtlest appearance.

2)  The Pride of Holiness

Sometimes, however, we seemingly have every right to think ourselves more righteous than the rest.  In fact, maybe we are more righteous than the rest!  I’m not talking about those of us who only think we know it all or are “holier than thou,” but those of us who may indeed believe so justly.  We read our Bibles daily, we quote scripture, we volunteer, we dress modestly, we don’t cheat, lie, or steal – we truly feel that we’re not too far away from where the Father wants us to be!

Maybe that’s true.  Maybe we’re closer to the Lord than any of our friends.  Maybe we’ve gotten just about everything right; we can check off the Ten Commandments and Fruit of the Spirit like a grocery list.  But realize this: we are never so close to God that we are out of the reaches of pride.  As we become holier, pride becomes equally sly.

In fact, those of us in whom pride has taken residence can be the very ones who appear to be humble!  We dismiss compliments, but do not direct that praise to God; we are simply pleased in the fact that we are not boastful.  We become prideful in our humility.

3)  The Pride of Passion

Often in our walk with Christ, we can become discouraged and upset when we see those around us not living as Christ desires.  Many of us have a specific message we want others to hear.  Maybe we want them to feed the hungry, save the lost, or give to the poor.

The problem is that, as our passion grows to help others understand what the Lord has revealed to us, we can develop a deadly, prideful habit: the “if only so-and-so could hear this” mentality.  It’s a pride of passion, so to speak.  I’ll be the first to admit that this is a difficult one for me.  Even as I type this post, it’s easy for my mind to drift to others who might “need to read” it.

Of course, many times this is acceptable – even necessary.  But the pride comes when we are so focused on teaching others that we don’t search our own hearts in humility and apply truths to our own lives – whether they are from a sermon, article, or just an everyday conversation.

The truth is that pride is tough to find and even tougher to remove.  It’s shady, but it’s comfortable.  We quickly spot the pride in others, but we fail to see how much it is controlling us.  To put it in Jesus’s words, we are too busy removing the “speck from our brother’s eye” that we forget – and even tolerate and embrace – the “plank” in our own.

Nothing in this article can remove your pride or mine.  That is up to each of us and the Lord of Hosts Who is in us.  Pride is dangerous.  But the price of allowing it to remain in our hearts is even more so.  Let us all cast self aside and walk in a mindset of humility, just as Christ did (Philippians 2:5-11).