(Photo credits: Kayla Noakes)
Pride and petulance. Arguably the two most prominent downfalls of humankind.
Pride is what has stopped me from having joy, kept me from dealing with things I should have dealt with long ago, and it has most certainly hurt other people I care about.
Petulance has also stolen my joy, it has kept me in a cycle of disappointment and fear, and has contributed to the poor mood of others around me.
To fully dig deep into these two pits that are so easy to fall into (aha get it? Dig deep into the pits?), I should probably define them. This first part will be about defining pride, and understanding the roots it takes in our lives.
I used to think that I didn’t struggle with pride because I didn’t want to be in the elite; I didn’t want to be famous, well-known, or even noticed in any way. Pride was something that caused the downfall of Satan because he wanted to be like God, craved more, and became jealous – not something that I would personally struggle with. But pride comes in so many different forms – and these forms are rooted in our sinful nature of selfishness, our tendency to think more about ourselves than anything else, and our desire to be known.
So what exactly are these forms of pride and how do we address it if it is so deeply rooted in our sinful nature?
That’s what I’m setting out to discover in this blog today. There are a few types that I’ve decided to dig into (although I’m sure there are more): Lording, Self-pity, and Worrying.
Example of pride #1: Lording
When I was in high school, there was a girl in my youth group who I wanted to be best friends with. I tried everything in my power to try to get her to like me because she meant a lot to me – she was the only other girl my age in our youth group at the time and I needed that relationship to happen. But no matter what I did, it felt as though I was not good enough. I realized later that it was because she was hurting at the time, and it wasn’t until years later (I’m ashamed to admit that it was actually just this year) that I realized the entirety of my part to play in the ways in which she was hurting.
You see, deep down in my heart, to make myself feel better about the fact that she had more experience with guys than me (I know, I know – super petty, right?), I thought to myself “at least I’m a better a Christian”, “at least I can say that I’m more innocent”, “at least I can say I’ve never been through heartbreak”. Yep, I was that girl – that girl who used the “goodie-two-shoes” label to her advantage, lording her “purity” over others. Even though I never said those things out loud, and I never even admitted to myself that I had those thoughts, they were there in the deepest roots of my heart, growing to make me more and more prideful by the day.
To further this horrible confession (yes, it gets worse): whenever I felt guilty or awful about myself, the first thing that would come to mind was “well, at least I’m not as bad as her”. I’m going to interrupt myself again to say something very obvious: THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS WRONG WITH THIS. Not only were those thoughts incredibly hurtful and damaging towards her, comparison thoughts like that completely disregard God’s outstanding grace and unconditional love. Instead of running to God’s open arms to receive his grace, I pumped myself up by putting someone else down in my mind. If I was a Bible character, I would have been one of those awful Pharisees who thought they were so pure and perfect because of their rituals, and whom Jesus warns against because of their hypocrisy in Matthew 23. I had no excuse to be thinking that way. Sure, I was hurting, but it is no excuse because I should have been running to God with that hurt.
When I look back on who I was then, I want to shake teenage Anna by the shoulders and tell her that we are all equally guilty – there is no sin that is “more” sinful or “less” sinful than another. I believe that there are various consequences that occur according to each various sin, but God doesn’t see one sinner as “dirtier” than another. We are all born dirty sinners. But through God’s amazing grace that he offers us through his son’s death on the cross, we can be freed!
The more I think about it, the more I know I was completely undeserving of God’s grace towards my pride, especially in this situation. I think one of the saddest parts of this pride story is that the only reason I was confronted and realized the way I was acting in high school was because I felt like another Christian had been doing the same thing to me and secretly lording their “purity” over me. I felt so awful and more than pathetic. I cried, asked God to forgive me, and asked my friend to forgive me too. God has seriously taught me so much through these situations, and I praise Him that my relationship with this girl is now restored, that she has forgiven me, and that she is now one of my closest friends.
Pride Example #2: Self-pity
The cycle of self-pity is one of the most gripping cycles that can pull people into major depression and constant hopelessness. And I know because I’ve been there. When we realize the amount of sin we’ve been drowning in, it’s easy to get caught up in the lie that we’re worthless, that we don’t deserve God’s love, and that we instead deserve the worst. This lie seems especially easy to believe when we have been victims of others’ wrong-doings and abuse, causing us to have a victim-mindset. But not only does this lie cause us to focus more on ourselves and our performance, but this lie also completely disregards God’s grace and his active role in saving and forgiving us. And living in the victim mind-set disregards His active role in serving justice and being a perfect judge.
Being trapped in the self-pity cycle and refusing to accept God’s grace would be like me being trapped in the clutches of Doctor Octopus, having Spiderman come to save me, and then me saying: “no thanks, I think I’ll be okay”. I’d only be hurting myself more by refusing his help – not to mention it’d be pretty prideful of myself to think that I could survive Doctor Octopus when I don’t have any super powers. Likewise, I’m only hurting myself more when I choose to pity myself, get down on myself, and think of myself as a terrible person. Not only is it prideful to continue to think of only myself, but it’s prideful to refuse God’s help when I don’t have the means to make it on my own.
God doesn’t want us to be in this self-pitying, victim-mindset. Yes, we are sinners, and we deserve the worst, but because of Jesus, we don’t have to live that way. And when we give our victim-mindset to God and trust that he will deal with our perpetrators, only then can we really experience the type of peace and freedom that only Jesus has to offer.
Pride Example #3: Worrying
I think worrying and fear can be grouped together since worrying is a form of fear, but I wanted to use a specific example of worrying about what others think of me. This is a constant issue for me. I think it is important to note first, though, that being concerned about what others think can be a good thing. If we didn’t care what others thought, we wouldn’t really be caring about them, and we wouldn’t really be held accountable. But when the concern turns into worry by thinking about what other people think all the time, it not only allows other people to become an idol instead of God, but it also allows ourselves to become an idol in our lives too – and that’s pride.
I remember one night having a really deep discussion with my housemate about my constant struggle to people-please and make everyone happy. I worry so much about what others think of me because I want to make them happy. But why do I want to make people happy? Because I want people to like me. If that’s not prideful, I don’t know what is. I should be caring and loving towards others to show Jesus’ unconditional love – not to get people to like me. This is a reality check I have to go through regularly.
Along with this discussion we had, we also talked about how pride is basically the root to all sin. And it’s true. When we don’t trust God with our everything, it is often because we think our plans are better. This is yet another form of pride. And when we don’t trust God, our fear and worrying can get out of hand. But again, God’s gift to us, Christ, allows us to be set free from all of this!
To try to define pride a little further:
Pride is not: self-confidence, body-positivity or liking the way you look – God wants us to feel comfortable in the bodies He gave us and use the talents He has given us for His glory. But that’s just it: For His glory. Are the things we do every day really for His glory? Or are they for the sake of building ourselves up? This is a tough question because of social media today, and how it promotes the self. To me, it is a question of motivation. Ask yourself: “is my motive behind posting this for God’s ultimate glory?”, or “can it ultimately serve his Kingdom?” Or “is my motive behind this for everyone to see how great life is for me?”, or “how I have accomplished things?” And I think the motives behind the posts of others are not ours judge either. I really don’t think it is our place to “guess” the motivations behind the posts of other Christians and say “they didn’t do that for God”. Only God can be a perfect judge of people’s hearts.
Humility is not: hating yourself or putting yourself down in comparison to others. As the famous quote goes: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself – it’s thinking of yourself less”. It’s being that modest person who refuses to take the full credit for something they only had a small part in doing. Recently, a Bible study I went to discussed a few of the beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12), and Jesus seems to talk about humility a lot. Not only with the Pharisees in Matthew 23, but with all the people listening to the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. Humility is important to Him, and He does a perfect (literally perfect lol) job of demonstrating humility for us.
I think a good question to ask ourselves daily is: “what do we really have if we don’t have Jesus?” Jesus says that apart from Him, we are nothing (John 15:4-5). If we as Christians claim that Jesus is our everything, why do we not always give all the glory to him for the achievements (because it is really all His doing and not our own)? I think the obvious answer is: because of pride.
My pride has been confronted over and over again, especially within the past year – God has really been peeling back the layers of my pride and opening my heart to accept more of Him and His goodness. There is honestly so much joy and freedom in shaking off the shame and brokenness that pride can cause. It’s definitely a daily choice, a hard decision that I fail at making on probably an hourly basis as I fight to train my thoughts to focus more on God. But the freedom that it brings is so worth it!
What are some examples of pride in your life? What are other forms and types of pride that stand out to you, and how can we keep a more Christ-centred focus?
To close this blog, I would like to write the lyrics of “Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful” by Keith Green as a prayer, since it has really helped me in focusing more on God and what He has to offer.
Your face is all I see,
For when your eyes are on this child,
Your grace abounds to me
I want to take your word and shine it all around
But first help me to just, live it Lord
And when I’m doing well, help me to never seek a crown
For my reward is giving glory to you.