Pride is so subtle that we don’t realise it when we are being proud. Growing up, we are told that we are to be proud of our achievements, proud of who we are, proud of our alma maters, proud of where we work etc. Pride shows up around us all the time!
An unhealthy focus on ourselves
Of all the ways we can fall short of the glory of God, pride is one of the most dangerous. In God’s eyes, a proud person is despicable. Pride says, “it’s all about me”. Satan became a fallen angel because he was proud and wanted the world to follow him.
Proverbs 16:5 ESV Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished.
Pride shows up in many different disguises but the one common factor is a focus on ourselves. We feel a need to dominate, be better than others, look a certain way, have the last say or show people what we have achieved. Arrogance, false humility, fear, comparison, jealousy, self-pity and self-victimisation are all different facets of pride.
1 Corinthians 13:4 ESV Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant
Pride and a focus on ourselves draw us away from submitting to God completely. Unfortunately, it is not the proud that God will bless, but the humble.
Compare with Jesus, not people
The irony about pride is that it is rooted in insecurity. It is a way to protect ourselves; how we view and feel about ourselves compared to others. When we compare ourselves with others at work, at school, at home and even at church, we are actually aiming too low. We are called to compare ourselves to Jesus and become more like Him. Jesus is gentle and humble. As His followers, we must put pride away and learn to be as humble as our Saviour is.
Ephesians 5:1-2 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Matthew 11:29 TESV … I am gentle and lowly in heart…
Take up the challenge to change our hearts
It can be a genuine struggle to recognise certain patterns of pride in our lives. The pride in our hearts is not just switched on and off overnight. How can we start to scrub pride out of our hearts?
Jeremiah 17:9 ESV The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
1. Go back to the root
Every type of sin needs to be cut out from the root so that it cannot grow again. This typically requires us to revisit our childhood experiences and influences.
All forms of pride stem from a fear of something. It could be the fear of being vulnerable, being looked down on, being left out etc. Such fears get instilled in us from young when we were frightened by some experience. Childhood pains and fears become imprinted into our subconscious and form the foundation for our pride later on. Sometimes, we learn pride from people we idolise. To be free to embrace Jesus’ humility and love, we need to confess these pains or false idols to God and ask for His restoration. Where needed, we may also need to seek wise counsel from godly brothers or sisters in Christ.
2. Remember what Jesus did
Another aspect of learning humility is to recognise that nothing we can do, achieve or say will ever compare to Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross. No pain or glory of ours will ever compare with Jesus’ pain and glory. We are called to draw people’s attention to Jesus Christ, not to us.
1 Samuel 2:3 “Boast no more so very proudly, Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; For the LORD is a God of knowledge, And with Him actions are weighed.
3. Always seek God’s opinion first
It is a good practice of humility to slow down and seek God first in all our opinions or decisions, rather than rely on our experience or instinct. The proud will simply assume they know what is best or how thing should work out, and forget that our human intelligence is foolish compared to God’s wisdom.
Proverbs 3:7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.
1 Corinthians 3:19 ESV For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,”
4. Acknowledge the Giver
Everything we have is from God, it is His gracious gift to us. Hence, we should avoid saying “my ( )”. Instead, we could say, “the ( ) that God gave me”. The words inside the brackets ( ) can be money, apartment, degree, job, qualifications etc.
Deuteronomy 8:17-18 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
5. Deflect praises towards God
When people praise us, we can practise replying with “I couldn’t have done it without God’s help”. The more we speak the truth over ourselves, the more our hearts will eventually be more aligned with it.
2 Corinthians 10:17-18 “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
6. Apologise to God
Whenever we think something that resembles “I’m better than that person” in our hearts, we should stop ourselves in our tracks and say “sorry” to God. Without Jesus in our lives, our lives would be worth nothing in the face of eternity.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
7. Make time to humbly bless others
Pride keeps us from even wanting to be nice to people who abuse us, but that pride only keeps us from being a good representation of a God who sent His son to die for us. So actively pray for those we are inclined to hate, resent or find intolerable.
Luke 6:27-28 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
8. Cleanse our hearts regularly
Before we pray for ourselves or other people, we ought to ask the Holy Spirit to help us convict our hearts for any sins that linger or hide in our hearts. This is to ensure that our pride and reliance on our own wisdom does not become a stumbling block in our prayers. It is also helpful to regularly check our hearts for racial, cultural, gender prejudices etc.
Proverbs 8:17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.
9. Thank God every day
Lastly, let us thank God every day and appreciate our loving Father for every invaluable thing that He has given us. Start with one thing each day and progressively learn to spot all the things we have been blessed with that is a gift from our Almighty Alpha and Omega. There are many.
Romans 1:21 ESV For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.