Rethinking Pride – For Disciples Only


  • I’m reposting this because after a recent discussion, some folks wanted me to post it again so they could find it. So here. I have also updated it a bit.

We use the term pride so often that I think we have thoroughly watered down its definition and by extension its implication as well. I am not talking about what many call positive pride, which I think should be given a better description anyway, but I am referring to the negative pride here.

When people make reference to themselves unduly, we call them proud simply because they have tried to highlight their abilities to the disgust of others, for whatever reason. We also make judgments on people about pride from what we see in their appearance or in their actions. I particularly do not like seeing men who wear conspicuous jewelry as I tend to think they are acting like peacocks and attracting too much attention. I would normally call that a form of pride and write off such persons as lacking in self control and hence proud as well. What error. Even though I still do not believe men should wear jewelry (in my infantile opinion), except for their wedding bands or watches (if that is even necessary), but those bling bling by no way or measure tell the state of a man’s heart.

In the same vein, we are quick to point out a proud man by his actions or by his speech. Some people are very conscious of how many times a person uses the first person pronoun in a given conversation or speech. Especially in religious institutions where there is a higher consciousness of character, one becomes sensitive to those who do not ‘humble’ themselves after those preconceived notions of humility.

From experience I have come to understand what pride is in the context of my walk with God and in society, and this is what I want to share in this little article. I had to shatter the notion
I had on the matter and refresh my thinking totally. Some of the things I did, which I counted as being humble were in abject violation of the standard of God for my life. It took me a point of real encounter before I came to clearly understand how my Father sees this issue.

There is the basic definition of pride which universally holds and cannot be upturned. Everyone will agree that pride is a state of unreasonable and inordinate self-esteem. When one exalts the self beyond reason, we note the presence of pride. However, we fail to properly identify what pride really means and this is where understanding it gets shortchanged. The central idea in pride is the word ‘SELF’, and the consideration of this operative word will help clarify our understanding on how pride manifests in the life of men.

I have come to understand that what we call pride is usually just one manifestation of it; arrogance. Other words that can be used for this include haughtiness, insolence, high-mindedness, pomposity, self-conceit, and hubris; and they all refer to an excessive regard of self above others.  However, Pride is like a continuum, and all the above-mentioned synonyms for pride are tending to one side of the continuum. But there is the other side of the scale, which is also a manifestation of pride, howbeit very subtle. This is when there is an underrating of ones’ self, making one feel inferior to others. So one side of pride makes you feel superior to others and the other side makes you feel inferior to others. This might be hard to understand, so let me flesh it up a little bit more.

Let us consider this. When a person is shy and never likes being in the open, many usually assume that they are ‘humble’ and introverted. However, shy people are usually concerned about their weaknesses and about how people see them and feel about their communication or appearance. It is a very powerful state of the mind that has kept many trapped with self and preoccupied with what others think about them. This is the other manifestation of self that is evident in a lot of people. This is pride in its subtle form and many have no idea that it is rooted in the preoccupation with self.

Most times what makes a person shy, introverted, or lack self-confidence, is a wrong self-conception and a distorted perception of other peoples’ view of them. Understand me, the very truth is that whether in arrogance or in shyness, self is the main consideration. Thinking too much or too little of you is an evidence of pride. (By the way, over a discussion someone jokingly told me that thinking highly of oneself is merely an expression of self preservation. Yeah right!)

Let us consider Moses in the Bible as a case in this point. In the account of Moses’ conversation with God over the captivity of the Children of Israel and their impending deliverance as recorded in Exodus 3:1-4:17, God comes to Moses and decides to send him on this all important assignment. Moses responds by first asking: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh…?”  (Ex.3:11). We see that despite God’s favourable response to him, three more times he shoves his inadequacy before God and the Bible ends up winds up the conversation this way: “So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses…” (Ex.4:14). Moses started up in modesty but ended up in pride, and God resist the proud (James 4:6).

This teaches us something very critical about the nature of our Father. What we think we are really has nothing to do with what He thinks about us. It is offensive to Him whenever we cast our self creates images before Him, whether this image is an over-assessment or under-assessment of our abilities. The moment we can capture what God thinks about us, then we come into alignment with His purposes for us and we become acceptable in His sight.

Interestingly, after Moses had learnt to obey God and do as he was commanded, the same Bible said of him in Numbers 12:3: “Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.” Wow! Powerful isn’t it? This means therefore that humility is not just the absence of pride, but it is more about seeing you the way the Father sees you and having a readiness to do His will. It was God’s will for Jesus to face the cross, no wonder Paul in Philippians 2:8 says Jesus “humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death…”

This might be hard to swallow at first for some people. When I came to this understanding, I could then identify the subversive and subtle nature of pride at work in my life. Every time you consider yourself before others, that is pride in action and we also call it ‘SELF-ishness’. If pride were so easy to identify, more people will deal with it easily. But there remains a deceptive part of it that we seem to overlook.

In putting this in proper perspective regarding our relationship with God, let me state it this way – When you put a person before your spouse, you are committing ADULTERY. When you put a thing before God, you are committing IDOLATORY. But when you put yourself first before God, you are living in PRIDE. This is what God cannot stand in men. This was the ultimate victory Jesus won when he said “Nevertheless, not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

Many of God’s Children are really under-assessing and disqualifying themselves, not knowing they are also walking the path of pride.  We have erroneously thought that only those who are excessive in their display of self-worth are proud, while those of us who are modest in our disposition aren’t. I have often found that shy people are the most strong-willed and proud people. This was my case when God opened my eyes to the truth and I began the process of correcting how I  assessed me, thus seeing myself as God sees me.

Let’s not forget that God almost killed Moses simply because he was persistently underrating himself before God (Ex.4:24). Was that humility? NO! It was a mighty presence of PRIDE. Every time you are besieged by the thoughts of inadequacy in the light of what God would have you do, be very careful. Pride is not far from you. A consistency on this path of SELF-absorption will cause the Father to resist you eventually.

**This is an update to an earlier article on the subject matter**



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