I never considered myself an idol worshiper until I read this remark by John Wesley a few years ago: “All pride is idolatry.” That’s when I realized that I am the idol before which my heart often bows.
Who hasn’t had an inflated ego now and then? God must think that arrogance is a big problem among His creatures, since pride is a recurring theme in both the Old and New Testaments. One of the common biblical terms used for pride in the Bible means, “to lift up” and expresses a lofty sense of self-importance. It is an attitude or mindset that God hates (Proverbs 6:16-17) and for which He promises painful consequences (Proverbs 18:12).
When we’re proud, how does it show? How can others tell if we’re puffed up?
More obvious answers include boasting about accomplishments (even when we’re subtle about it during conversations); an unwillingness to accept unsolicited counsel or reproof; the absence of a teachable spirit in any realm of life or responsibility, and an air of superiority that results in having to win every argument or promoting our own ideas without consideration of others’ input.
But what follows are less obvious attitudes and behaviors that stem from pride. To my chagrin, I’ve exhibited each of the five lesser known symptoms. Ask God’s Spirit to do a heart check for you as you continue to read. And keep in mind that no one, I mean no one, needs to use the application questions and suggestions more than I do. Actually, I’m writing this post for my own sake and allowing you to “listen” in.
Whether I’m muttering under my breath in a traffic jam, agitated over a delay in a doctor’s office, visibly frustrated with an uncooperative computer, or I’m eager for the other person to stop talking so I can say what’s on my mind, a pattern of impatience reveals that my time and words are ultimately too important for me to wait. It is a form of self-centeredness, which is the essence of a proud spirit.
To what extent does impatience describe you? What situations evoke extreme impatience in you? Have you confessed this to the Lord and asked His Spirit to instill within you the fruit of patience (Galatians 5:22)? Have you asked your spouse or a good friend to let you know when he or she sees impatience surfacing in your words or attitude?
Though we should make our impatience a matter of prayer, let’s not utter the so-called “American prayer”: “Lord, give me patience...and hurry!”
In Humility: True Greatness, C. J. Mahaney explains that pride births excessive worry: “When I’m experiencing anxiety, I’m trying to be self-sufficient. I’m acting independently of God.”
He’s on to something. Peter also linked anxiety with pride: “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He might exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him” (1 Pet. 5:5-7).
What does a habit of worrying say about the state of your heart? About your view of God and trust in His providence? Memorize 1 Peter 5:6-7. Identify the insight about God in this text that should alleviate anxiety.
Ingratitude is a first cousin of complaining. Habitual complaining indicates I’m focusing on inconveniences and what I don’t have, rather than demonstrating a grateful spirit for what God has done for me and what He has undeservedly given to me.
It’s tantamount to saying that I’m the center of the universe and all the planets should revolve around me.
Mahaney insists, “An ungrateful person is a proud person.” Michael Ramsey adds, “Thankfulness is a soil in which pride does not easily grow.”
What sticky notes is God placing in your life as daily reminders of His presence and provision? Today, think of seven reasons you have to be grateful to Him. Make a list and thank Him for each one.
One tip: travel to the poor areas of countries such as India, Africa or the Philippines and you’ll return home with a whole lot more gratitude for ways in which you are blessed. After my trip to the slums near Bangalore, India in 1995, where I saw a young mom and several kids huddled in a one-room, dirt-floor shanty the size of my bathroom that sat alongside a polluted stream of waste, I wanted to kiss the ground where my house stands. I realized that financially, I am a whole lot richer than I had thought.
A second tip: get a copy of a book by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Choosing Gratitude. If you read it and ask God’s Spirit to speak a personal word to you, He will do so! You’ll thank me for this recommendation.
Griping about others’ blemishes is a way to inflate our own egos and make ourselves look better by comparison. A pattern of criticizing others, whether face to face or behind their backs, is merely a form of self-exaltation.
The next time you’re tempted to say something derogatory about someone, instead, ask yourself: What evidence of grace do I see in this person?
A person with a critical spirit or habit of complaining brightens up any room that he or she enters, but only when leaving that room!
Unwillingness to Be Transparent
A transparent person isn’t pretentious. He discloses setbacks as well as victories. When he teaches the Bible, he tells stories showing how truth has challenged or encouraged him. With discretion, he shares struggles revealing his need to rely on the Lord’s sustaining grace. He reveals his own need for the daily application of gospel truth. When participating in a prayer meeting, he’s honest about a need he has for others’ intercession.
Pride, however, causes us to keep a lid on our need for prayer, generating worry about what others think of us. Yet it is impossible for others to help bear our burdens (Galatians 6:2) unless we are willing to disclose them. A proud person hesitates to mention the Spirit’s conviction of a wrong attitude, the need of an adult child who’s a prodigal, or his struggles with depression.
Yet I’ve learned that it’s okay if others see me as weak, so long as they see the Savior on whom I lean as strong.
How can more transparency on your part minister to others, and magnify the sufficiency of Christ to sustain them as it has you?
You knew these five traits were undesirable, but perhaps you never considered their link to a proud spirit. I’ve seen the connection and the awareness has spawned confession and pleas for God’s Spirit to keep my heart soft and humble.
Is God’s Spirit nudging you to confess one of these expressions of pride?
What is another attitude or behavior pattern that we don’t typically link to pride? I’d love to hear your answer.
Digging Deeper #1 A Case Study of the Causes and Consequences of Pride
You’ve finished the post, but if you want a sobering personal Bible study on pride, camp out in 2 Chronicles 26. It is both a chapter study and a character study featuring King Uzziah. Mull over these questions as you work through the chapter.
*What words/phrases from the passage reveal the reasons for King Uzziah’s success as the king?
*What verse shows that the blessings God gave Uzziah spawned pride within him?
*What were the specific ways that a proud spirit showed in Uzziah?
*According to the text, what were the consequences of Uzziah’s pride?
*In what primary ways has God blessed you? (Materially? Relationships? Ministry fruitfulness?)
Be careful. How ironic that answers to prayer and fruitful ministries can become the very things that generate a proud, self-sufficient spirit! Success in any realm of life is a far stiffer test of our faith in God than adversity.
Because God has blessed us and used us mightily, perhaps we are so rife with pride that we are waiting for a vacancy in the Trinity. Except I don’t think there’s an opening at the moment. I wouldn’t bother with sending in a resume. I just know that mine was rejected.
Digging Deeper #2 Topical Study of Pride in Proverbs
A couple of years ago I published a blog on pride titled “Are You Strutting Your Stuff?” In that article, I gave references on pride from the book of Proverbs, along with study questions to mull over in relation to those verses. If interested, here is the link: