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“As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.” ― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

pirate2I’ve written a fair amount about pride, here, here, here, here and here.  Actually, I’ve written at least a dozen more, but I’m too lazy to search for them all.

So why the big obsession with pride? Because it tends to be very painful and it separates us from God. Proud men aren’t just looking down on things and people, they are often looking down on themselves, too. As CS Lewis points out so well, if we’re looking down, we aren’t looking up.

It’s a bit funny, one of the fastest ways to win friends and influence people is to speak about pride. It’s simply astounding how you can be the only one in the whole world who ever struggles with it. Before you know it, all the virtuous and humble people will promptly inform you, You know what your problem is? You just think too highly of yourself.

Pride is not about thinking too highly of yourself at all.

I’m laughing here, humility is a funny  thing, too. Once you’ve found it and you’re quite prepared to proudly share it with everyone…….you’ve actually lost it. Extra credit points if you can figure out how to virtue signal your own humility, by whacking others upside the head with it.

I hope God laughs with us, like I often laugh with us, because the human condition can be downright funny sometimes.

The kind of pride I like to focus on is more covert, sneaky, passive aggressive, and pretty much just harmful to ourselves. It’s looking down too, but usually hiding in a hoody, shy, fearful, even paralyzed. It can be self absorbed, self-obsessed. Everybody’s looking at you, everybody’s judging you, everybody’s rejecting you.

I am the center of the universe and other people’s  hostility is probably all about me.

Or, I am the only one in the whole world who can do this job and of I don’t do it the  world will fall apart. I think Mary who is rushing about doing everything and angry with Martha who is not helping, is a form of pride. At least it is when I have been there. You can be a prideful servant doing all the work nobody else does around here. Or even a prideful servant hiding your talents in the ground.

Pride can manifest itself as insecurity, stage fright, fear, control, anxiety, this whole slew of things that on the surface can look like anything but “pride.”

Another way to describe pride is, “too much of me, not enough of Him.”

Then there is intellectual pride,  I am the only rational one, obviously trapped on a planet full of delusional midwits. Lot of non-believers fall into that trap. I’ve stepped into that trap a few times myself. Genuine wisdom actually requires  humility.

Oh ouch, now I’ve probably just gone and pricked somebody’s pride.

Pride is usually painful and it weakens us. Trying to do things under our own will, our own strength, makes us kind of vulnerable, it drains our energy. We tend to become really focused on people favor or disfavor. Pride needs to be protected and defended constantly. It’s distracting, like having to multi-task. Offense is everywhere, and fear too, because pride is about scarcity, that there is not enough to go around, that other people are the gatekeepers of how we are going to feel.

One of my pet peeves is the saying, “you make me feel.” Actually other people don’t have that power, we make us feel. Eleanor Roosevelt is thought to have once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” That inferior/superior thing that people are often doing, plays off of pride. The more pride you can surrender, the more impervious you become to other people’s opinions or attacks. Pride is kind of like just handing people a button to push.

Letting go of pride can change the whole story, too. Recently I wanted to do some work with a woman and she said, “you’re a Christian, aren’t you?” Pride just made me groan inside, because I know how this always plays out. Now I get to hear about every bad thing Christians have ever done in the world, the horrors inflicted by some church somewhere, how wrongheaded we are,  before she finally rationalizes how she wants nothing to do with me. But the Lord said, “Stop.” Set down your offense and listen to what was just said. You are so prideful, you almost missed it.

This woman, who doesn’t even know you, just took one look at you and promptly concluded, yep, she’s a follower of Jesus Christ. Is that not the most fabulous thing ever? Is that not exactly what I have called you to be? This is not an insult, this is actually a great compliment. This is a jewel for you to pick up and place in your crown.

I’m chuckling here, I wasn’t even wearing a prairie muffin dress, with a giant cross hanging down, and a fish tattooed on my arm, hollering, “Praise the Lord.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the imagery made me laugh, because I felt like that and I actually had to go check to make sure that wasn’t me.

So, lesson learned. If you’re going to get called out for something, get called out for being a Christian, and receive it with grace and humility. It might turn out to be one of the nicest things someone has said to you all week.

You’re a Christian, aren’t you? Why yes, yes I am. Thanks for seeing me.