The “Oxford” dictionary defines pride as, “A feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of one’s close associates, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.”
While we all need a certain amount of pride to be helpful and productive to society, too much pride can be harmful. Pride became a problem for me as I grew older. As I enjoyed success in my life it led to prideful thoughts and feelings. Like many young people, I didn’t ever face a true tragedy growing up. I thought that I had gone through some tough times, but failed tests, broken hearts, lost state championships and not getting what I wanted were not true tragedies. They were set-backs or shortcomings, nothing more.
My response to “tough” times or setbacks in my life was to work harder. Sure, I prayed to the Lord for help, but the real lesson I took away from my first twenty years was to try harder, work harder, run farther, study longer. While I didn’t accomplish all of the goals I set for myself, I took an inordinate amount of pride in my accomplishments. I had very few disappointments in those first twenty years.
While I was not a top student, I was doing well in college and headed for graduation. While I didn’t go to the Olympics, I received a scholarship to run in college and set school records. While I got caught up in a sinful lifestyle, I overcame those problems and got back on the right track. Plus, I was engaged to a beautiful girl and would soon be married.
Basically, I made progress in everything I ever set out to achieve. In the few instances when I fell short or made a mistake, I convinced myself that if I just worked harder and stayed focused I would succeed. I had no doubts about my greatness and ability to accomplish almost anything.
This pride stayed hidden within me most of the time, and I honestly didn’t even realize that I was prideful. The bad thing about pride is that you don’t know you have it. It grows quietly without notice and slowly starts affecting your thoughts and actions. Pride was slowly but surely growing in me and it was destined to cause me big problems later in life.
The book of Proverbs says, “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” You may wonder if this is true, but let me save you the trouble of learning it for yourself. Pride blinds you to your own weaknesses and causes you to underestimate your obstacles or your opponent’s strengths. Once you lose your perspective on those things, you are headed for a fall. Your judgment is impaired and mistakes quickly follow.
A prideful attitude attracts conflict, strife, and discord with those around you while at the same time repealing trust, friendship, and loyalty. Nobody likes to be around or help a cocky, prideful person, but everyone is attracted to a humble, caring person who encourages and helps others.
I once heard a preacher say that pride is impossible to detect without the help of the Lord. He explained it with this illustration. “We cannot smell natural gas so they add a bad scent to it allowing us to detect a leak. Without this odor added, we would never be able to tell if we had a gas leak that could end up killing us. Similarly, without the Holy Spirit’s discern-ment, we cannot tell that pride is growing in our life.”
There are three good ways to recognize pride in your life. First, pray and ask the Lord to give you the grace to see your shortcomings and keep you humble. Second, ask family and friends who you trust to honestly point out your shortcomings. Then listen to them and don’t bite their heads off for being honest with you. Lastly, pay attention to the criticism of your opponents or enemies. While you can’t let their attacks depress you, I have learned that small kernels of truth can be found in their criticisms and those kernels can sometimes help you see your own faults.
Growing up, I enjoyed many successes with very few failures. Sure, I made mistakes and had setbacks, but with God’s grace and hard work, it appeared that I was a very successful young man. While I was thankful and appreciative of God’s grace, I unfortunately believed that far too much of my success was due to my own hard work. Over the next twenty years, this hidden but powerful pride would slowly wreak its havoc on my life and the lives of my loved ones. But that’s another story.