What is the most important battle you can fight? Is it against a rival at work? Is it against a family member? Is it against our decaying culture? No. Your most important battle is against yourself.
Pride is a nasty sin. We all struggle with self-exaltation, self-sufficiency, and self-focus. What is so great about us? Well, according to us, everything. In light of the magnitude of God and the smallness of us pride makes zero sense. And yet we are proud.
Pride has many subtle distinctions, and prances out of our hearts in various ways throughout our lifetimes. A Puritan said, “Pride is the shirt of the soul, put on first and put off last.” Nineteenth century London preacher Charles Spurgeon said, “There is nothing into which the heart of man so easily falls as pride. And yet there is no vice which is more frequently, more emphatically, and more eloquently condemned in Scripture.”
Have you recognized the pride in your life? You may be the type who thinks he is the most humble man on his block and is mighty proud of it! It sneaks up on us in so many ways, shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors we easily overlook it in our hearts. Pride certainly does not like to be exposed, so it is especially deceptive and hard to root out.
Until you see the depth of the sin in your life, however, you will never repent of it. To help us see hidden pride, let’s examine several varieties. This may sting a little, but it’s needful if we are to pursue holiness.
- Bragging. When you tell others how great you are that is pride. Proverbs 27:2 says “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips.” The proverb just before this one relates to boasting about the future. “Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth,” (Proverbs 27:1). There is a fine line between making plans for the future in light of God’s ultimate plan and living as if we control our destinies.
- Seeking Praise from Others. Proverbs 25:27 plainly says, “It is not good to eat much honey, Nor is it glory to search out one’s own glory.” Glory-seeking is actually quite a skill. Someone may ask, “How did you like what I did?” Or if complimented someone may respond, “Did you really like it?” They may even attempt to downplay what they did, hoping that you will upplay it. Pride is such a subtle snare.
- Always Offering Your Opinions about Everything. Obviously, it is not a sin to offer an opinion, but prideful people ALWAYS have something to say. “A fool does not delight in understanding, But only in revealing his own mind,” (Proverbs 18:2). Instead of always overflowing with your words of wisdom, humbly seek GOD’S opinion on matters from his word.
- Impatience. Perhaps you have never considered this, but whenever you are impatient, you are saying, “No God, Your sovereign plan for my day is unacceptable; my plans would be much better.” Even while driving on Highway 34 or I-85, you should humbly rest in God’s good plan for your commute.
- Anger. When you recall that behind every difficult trial is the sovereign God of the universe working his good plan in your life (Romans 8:28-30), when is it ever right to become sinfully angry? “An arrogant man stirs up strife, But he who trusts in the LORD will prosper,” (Proverbs 28:25). Do you see how pride is exalting yourself above God and against God? The proud demand, “MY will be done;” the humble pray, “THY will by done.”
- Defensiveness. Is it easy for others to point out sins in your life? Would your spouse rather have a root canal than suggest an area for you to work on? Do you feel the need to strike back or make excuses for your sin? If you are hard to reprove, you are proud. Proverbs 9:8 “Do not reprove a scoffer, lest he hate you, Reprove a wise man and he will love you.”
- Complaining. It’s always a sin to complain. Philippians 2:14 says, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” It reflects a heart of pride again, because when we complain we are putting our plans above God’s plans for our day/ lunch/ commute/ vacation/ etc…. Instead of complaining, think of things to thank God for.
- Self-Confidence. “A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, And like a high wall in his own imagination” (Proverbs 18:11). “A king is not saved by a mighty army; A warrior is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a false hope for victory; Nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength” (Psalm 33:16, 17). Is your confidence in God or flesh? Whenever it is in the flesh, you are being proud.
The Bible is filled with other manifestations of pride such as a proud expression on your face, exaggerating your good points, contention, vengeance, selfishness, a lack of love and service towards others, bitterness, showing off, and even self-abasement. No one can successfully avoid every appearance of pride, because it serves as a foundation for so many different sins. The key question is, “What can we do about the wicked sin?”
First, don’t be too proud to admit your pride. Confess your sin to God and those who you are offending. Repent of all of the pride that you see in your heart. Don’t be afraid to ask God to show it to you. The beginning of humility is seeing your sin.
Then, ask God for forgiveness for your efforts to dethrone him. Beg him for grace to live humbly. Cultivate a right view of God and yourself through regular Bible intake (daily reading of the Bible, and hearing the Word at church). Listen to godly counsel from others.
Look for ways to replace your prideful practices with humble ones. For every manifestation of pride, there is a corresponding practice of humility. Carefully identify your main offenses and think about replacing them with the opposite traits with God’s help. If you brag, for example, begin to tell people how great God is. If you complain, try thinking of 10 things to thank God for every time a complaining thought comes to mind. God hates our pride. It is the most important battle you will fight, but you have to fight it. Your soul is literally at stake. God doesn’t do rivals.
There is, however, wonderful hope for proud people. God loves you and sent Jesus to die for proud sinners like you. Repent and put your trust in him. As you begin to make progress towards humility, God will also grease your paths. God says very clearly that although he is opposed to the proud, he gives grace to the humble (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5, 6). Humbly ask God for this grace right now.