By Steven Balamut
Pride, the strange compulsion of needing to be the best, the most correct or most self-reliant person in the room. It comes just as fast as it leaves, or can hold onto you for a long time. Once the feeling of pride leaves, we are often left confused by the motives of our actions. Why did something so irrelevant become so important to me? Why did I passionately argue about what type of pasta tastes the best for the last hour? Why do I feel the need to be right all the time? Pride is something that we all deal with to some degree. It can come in many different forms that may cripple our sense of judgement and weaken our functionality. This is why being grounded in Jesus and knowing the truth about ourselves is essential. Living purposefully for God can often be blocked by pride, which is why a deep reliance on Him is necessary.
Over the past few weeks I have been challenged with the issue of pride, which has reared its ugly head in the areas of intellectual thinking and spiritual knowledge. Closing off doors to insightful thinking and tidbits of knowledge from others has restrained me from growing into a deeper understanding of my faith. So why pride then? Why am I so drawn to be prideful when it opposes the nature of God? Maybe it is the desire for validation and individuality. When carefully sifting through these different aspects of pride, they all seem to point to our self-identity and desires. Do we define ourselves in our own accomplishments or how God sees us? I would never want to disregard truth spoken over my life because of my stubborn heart. So here are a few thoughts that have helped me battle against pride.
One of the best ways to combat pride is to first recognize if it is an issue so that God can begin to fully mend the brokenness. A good way to distinguish a prideful nature is to determine what you are invested in. Does your own agenda diminish your interest and investment towards other people? If so, try flipping this attitude the other way around and you might discover hidden pride. Do you always have to impose your ‘correct’ opinions on others until they see your way? Do you tend to think more highly of yourself than others? Try respecting others and allow love to govern your conversations, putting yourself in a place of humility.
God’s grace has been given to me. So here is what I say to every one of you. Don’t think of yourself more highly than you should. Be reasonable when you think about yourself. Keep in mind the faith God has given to each of you.
Secondly, understanding the concept that my identity lies in Christ and not others, brings true humility. When God helps us to fully understand who we are, there is no need for other people to define our worth. Imagine your identity as a meal…..stick with me on this weird analogy. Ultimately God’s love is the steak and the encouragement of others are the spices. Only God can fully satisfy our needs and get us through the day. Spices are great on steak, but when used alone, they won’t satisfy an appetite. Just like the spices, validation and encouragement should still be received. This is important because it complements the ‘meal’, but will never be the main source of nutrition. A constant need for validation leaves us hungry and desperate for people’s approval, rather than resting and being satisfied in God’s perfect love. How then, do we form our identity in Christ? Read the bible and pray to find out who God says He is! Once we find out who He is, we can begin to fully live out who He has created us to be.
The third point is to be open enough to receive words of wisdom, knowledge and counsel, driven by a desire to know God more. King David demonstrates this concept of choosing desire for God over dependency for himself when receiving truth from others.
David was a gifted musician, a valiant warrior, a prophet and the King of Israel. He was regarded as one of the most spiritually gifted men of the time and yet still kept room in his heart for humility. In 1 Chronicles 17, David displays a great example of this.
Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of the covenant of the Lord is under a tent
1 Chronicles 17:1
Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and prayed, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And now, O God, in addition to everything else, you speak of giving your servant a lasting dynasty! You speak as though I were someone very great, O Lord God!”
1 Chronicles 17:16-17
From looking at the interaction in the passage above, we see how David’s humility was driven from his desire to know God more. This humility went on to displace any superficial attitude of greatness and opened his spirit to receive from Nathan. When we desire more of God, we are actually asking for more of His presence, and when we operate in God’s presence, we partner in His kingdom and pride has no control there. Also, I have really been learning that a constant fixation on the problem of pride creates self-centered thinking, which in its essence is pride. This pattern unknowingly creates an interesting self-induced loop. When trying to fix pride, you catch yourself running in a way that only leads back to where you started. It’s not wrong to distinguish a prideful nature, but worrying about it too much can detract from the original motives of recognition. The rational conclusion is to desire more of the solution rather than learning more about the problem. A desire for God will lead our hearts to change according to His character, which will naturally diminish pride. This needs to be our battle strategy against pride.
Finally, the fourth point is to never let your caution for pride turn into a false sense of humility. Humility is thinking less about yourself, not thinking less of yourself. God has gifted and purposed you in His own special way. Low self-esteem can be the biggest vision killer, which is why humility must be understood and not abused. I believe that we become effective disciples of Jesus when boldness and confidence are balanced with humility and authenticity.
In the end, these four points don’t result in a one-time magic trick, but can be transformative through surrender, prayer and practice. I really believe that when we work against pride, our little conversations with God in tough situations will change from:
“God, I can’t do this because of what people will think”,
“How can I maximize this opportunity?” and “Let’s see what you have in store for me, God!”
Pride can create a wall between us and God, but when we recognize the problem, form our identity in Jesus and begin desiring Him over ourselves, God will restore, bless and build up leaders in His Kingdom.