People say you should teach what you know. If that's the case, then I could definitely teach a class on pride. It would be a class where people could learn:
how to value what you want more than valuing people;
how to hold tightly to resentments for decades; and
how to create a façade that will fool those closest to you.
Sounds great, right? All humor aside, the truth is that pride is a sin many of us struggle with. We may think pride simply means having an inflated self-esteem, but in reality pride reveals itself in many different—and ugly—ways. Do you struggle with pride like I do? Consider some of these expressions of pride in order to identify it and root it out of your own life.
Pride wants its way.
Pride revealed itself in my life when getting my way seemed more important to me than other people did. One time my friend Lois and I sat around her dining table. For hours, she listened to my rants about whatever was on my mind. This time it was my husband, Mike, and his newfound love for pipes. The problem? I didn't want him to smoke. What were my objections? The cherry fragrance that filled the house? The way he seemed relaxed?
Actually, I just didn't want him smoking.
Moments later we were all called to the table. She started by saying, "So Mike, did Anne tell you what she was getting you for Father's Day?"
"No," Mike said, as surprised as I was.
"She said she's getting you a humidor."
I shot Lois a look across the table.
"Really?" Mike responded.
Lois' eyes pleaded that I agree, so I complied. As we cleared the table later, Lois shared the plan. "Just get him the humidor," she said.
Reluctantly I picked out a humidor. Mike loved it. Within a matter of weeks, Mike lost his desire to smoke pipes.
Lois recognized that our problem was a power struggle. She saw my pride in this situation, knowing if I gave up wanting my way, so would Mike.
Wanting things to be my way can be a continual struggle. In fact, sometimes it's the little things that become the bigger challenges—like the challenge I faced as I stood before the open cabinet, with a sigh. (Make that a double sigh.) How long would it take my daughter to get it right? I had repeatedly shown her where the glasses went on each shelf. Yet, here they were all over the place. I was so angry that she didn't do it my way that I was unable to be thankful she'd put away the dishes. And the more I pushed on this subject, the more she felt devalued.
This is still a struggle with me. I feel myself tighten up when things don't measure up. But when I loosen up a little, I hear something breaking. I think it's my will—and maybe that's a good thing.
Pride is stubborn.
There's a thin line between perseverance and stubbornness. I'm stubborn—unwilling to let go when I'm wrong. At times I'm simply unteachable when my metal mind slams shut.
I faced my tendency toward stubbornness in a recent situation with an acquaintance. More than ten years ago, a friend of mine shared in confidence how my sarcasm was misunderstood by her friend Alice. I stored this information away, letting it grow into feelings of resentment. Whenever I'd see Alice, I'd act differently, hoping to change her opinion of me.
Now fast-forward ten years. Alice and I became friends on Facebook. And I was still on a mission to change Alice's mind. So one day I broke my friend's confidence and messaged Alice about her comments so many years ago. She denied saying anything about me. The more she denied, the more I pushed.
Not until I got unfriended by Alice did I recognize the damaging extent of my actions. I deserved to be unfriended. I didn't even like me that day.
Getting her to change her opinion had become all-important. I saw nothing else. Ever feel like you just can't let go? It may be pride urging you on.
Pride gets annoyed.
It's easy to recognize impatience when you're in a car. Someone cuts in front of you and you see red. I had a similar experience at the grocery store.
I was on my way to the store when the Christian announcer stated, "Today we'll be discussing irritations and what we can learn about them."
"Good," I heard myself say out loud. People irritate me a lot.
The show resumed, "When you find yourself easily annoyed, it's because of pride."
I shrunk down in my seat.
"When you are irritated," the radio continued, "it's because you somehow feel you shouldn't have to go through that. That somehow you're above it."
In a matter of moments I saw my pride clearly. Whether we're in line at the grocery store, listening to the non-stop barking of the neighbor's dog, or expecting a paycheck, everyone experiences irritations. But when we struggle with pride, those irritations swell.
So at the store, I saw that a new register had opened. I was tired of waiting in the slow lane, and decided to make my way over. Out of the corner of my eye I saw movement—someone else had the same idea.
So I sprang over to the open line, putting my milk and eggs down, trying not to gloat. I did it! I beat the other person.
But, looking over, my face turned red as I realized the person I beat was riding a motorized cart.
Sometimes when we think we win, we've really lost. Pride is humbling.
It was 1982 when I got a letter from my sister that said, "This is going to shock you, but I'm getting a divorce." She was right. I was shocked. Her marriage seemed perfect from the outside. They were on their third house and had three beautiful sons. But looks can be deceiving. And the life she painted was not hers. Peggy's façade was one of strength—one the world glamorizes. She seemed to be an independent person who accomplishes much without help. By the time she opened up and shared her real story, it was too late.
I understood the concept of building façades and wearing masks. For years I, too, had spent a lot of effort creating an image I felt would be accepted. It's scary to be yourself. What if you're rejected?
I learned early in life that people like to be around people who are cheerful. Every day, I'd apply my smile along with my make-up before leaving the house. I looked like someone who had it all together. No one really knew me, but that was okay. It was scary to be seen.
Pride wears a mask—and masks like these are hard to take off. But Jesus didn't wear a mask, nor did he try to impress others. He cared only about pleasing his Father. And while that's important to us as well, sometimes we care more about what others think.
In Galatians 1:10, Paul asks "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God?" (NIV) I thought I was pleasing both, but I was wrong.
No longer do I need to hide behind a mask. Second Corinthians 12:9–10 says, "Each time he said, 'My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.' So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That's why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
I am broken. I struggle. Some days I don't feel like I'll make it. But I know that God will be what I need. His grace will enable me to keep putting one foot in front of another. And I know God will be with me in my mess. Because he promised—and he never breaks his promises. My mask is off. I feel scared, but I know I'm not alone.
The remedy for pride
Pride is ugly. It's not something we need to master—it's something we need to be forgiven for. The good news is that Jesus forgives our pride. Jesus, who actually had the right to be proud, chose instead to be a servant. When we submit to God like Jesus did, God changes us. Little by little, we start caring more about what God wants than about having our own way. Through the trials of our lives we develop patience that we can offer others. God can tenderize our hearts so we are less stubborn. We can learn to live our lives without masks because God himself accepts us, just as we are. Even when we're proud.
Anne Peterson is a poet, speaker, and author of more than 42 published Bible studies. She is also the author of Real Love:Guaranteed to Last. To find out more about Anne and her upcoming book, Broken Yet, visit www.AnnePeterson.com.