by Tyler Hutcherson
Many passages in the Bible are quick to condemn pride. Some even refer to it as the deadliest of all sins. The book of Proverbs, with all of its compact wisdom, offers these words on the topic:
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace;
but wisdom is with the humble. (Proverbs 11:2)”
According to this logic, immediately following pride comes shame and disgrace. So it seems pretty simple… Right? Don’t be prideful, don’t be arrogant, keep the ego in check. Got it…
But, if only it were that simple…
Pride is the most dangerous thing because by its very nature, it blinds us; it completely and utterly disengages our ability to see truth. But what exactly is truth? God tells us that his word is truth, and through that written word, truth manifests itself in our daily lives as humans. The reality that, as humans, we are all equally flawed and broken people: truth. The unequivocal call to love, sacrifice for, guard, and stand by our neighbors and fellow brothers and sisters: truth. The reality that being a Christian doesn’t make us any “better” or “worthy” of love, relationship, joy, fulfillment, grace, or sustenance than our non-Christian friends and peers: truth. The fact that our fundamental identity is not based in our worldly possessions, relationships, or standards: truth. The list goes on and on.
Clearly one can see how pride is such a killer of life. It severely limits our ability to see truth. If and when we can’t see truth, how can we strive towards the life that Jesus led? When we can’t see truth, how are we supposed to be able to see and understand our own sin; our own brokenness? The balance between pride and humility is a painful one. Just when we acknowledge we have embodied humility in some way, we immediately experience a bout pride. Yes, the pride of being humble- it’s a thing. It goes way deeper than just surface level, external praise or self-glorification. Internal pride is often the most dangerous. We don’t see it play out that much unless we are put in a discomforting situation where trust, sacrifice, or fear play a role. Be wary of confidence in a seemingly natural ability to always be correct. The enemy will find a way for pride to creep into our lives in a split second if it isn’t actively held at bay.
One crucial area of life that pride impacts is relationships. We are called to be in relationship with one another, not for the fulfillment of selfish desires of the heart, mind, or flesh, but rather for the mutual benefit of both parties. The privilege of relationship with one another is a gift from God, enabled by his grace (the same grace that we are supposed to also extend to others daily). In the Gospel of John, Jesus reflects on this intimate call to his followers:
“ 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:22-23)”.
The complete unity he refers to is the oneness that we experience in true fellowship, oneness with one another, with Christ and with our Father.
This sounds wonderful and dandy doesn’t it; relationships that are meaningful and impactful? It’s not so easy though. If a person comes into a relationship with even an ounce of pride, it prohibits vulnerability and stifles mutuality. Whether it’s overwhelming affection or praise for oneself, an inability to hear another person’s perspective or view, an assumption that our culture or upbringing is the “right” way , an assumption that another person needs our help because we somehow know exactly what will make them “better”, a neglect to be real with people and share the inner brokenness of our hearts; all of these things reek with pride.
Allow me to illustrate this with a personal story.
His name is Jason (name changed for the purpose of this story). Approximately 5’8” tall, skinny as a twig, no money, little food, lives with grandma and ten other siblings/cousins, yet always has a smile on his face. I met Jason three years ago while working with an incredible inner city ministry in Richmond called CHAT (Church Hill Activities and Tutoring). I remember the first day I met Jason; we were at tutoring one evening and he challenged me to a game on the Nintendo Wii beforehand. After I won the first three games and intentionally lost the last two, we talked for a good while and became buds. Jason has a disease from birth that severely limits his brain and body’s ability to develop. Sometimes he will mumble things or laugh intensely about things that don’t seem to make sense. Regardless of his set backs, Jason always remains positive and upbeat. The more time I spent with him, the more willing he was to open up about his own personal story. Whenever we talked I kept finding myself trying to help him. I kept wanting to share with him how to make certain decisions, save money, get a job, “be responsible”, x, y, z, you name it. Instead of simply listening and sharing in his pain and vulnerability, I wanted to combat it. I wanted to “fix” him and his current situation. Looking back, this was all pride. I approached the relationship from an uneven perspective. I thought I was on some moral/societal “high ground” and I needed him to see that. Instead of meeting each other humbly and mutually, the way Christ would have, I just assumed he needed my help and my opinion.
Jason and I went to a worship and prayer gathering one night where I saw him shout out in Joy. With his hands fully raised and a big grin on his face, he praised God from the depths of his soul. “WHAT?! How is this possible..!”, I thought to myself. Jason was living in poverty with almost nothing going his way, yet he trusted God, and that broke me. Seeing his faith displayed in such a way put everything into perspective. I saw how my pride was incredibly limiting in my ability to be in true relationship with Jason. I was supposed to be the one who knew how to do this Christian thing. I was supposed to have it all together, right? Wrong! Jesus tells us that those who think they are first will be last, and those who think they are last will be first in the Kingdom of God. Pride, in every form, turns out to be a one way ticket to last.
Tyler Hutcherson is a 4th-year student at the University of Virginia and a student leader with Eunoia Christian Community.