5 Biblical Steps to Root out Hidden Pride
One summer, years ago now, I went backpacking across Europe with a friend. We visited most of the countries on the continent and met a lot of people. And of course, many of them would sooner or later ask us what kind of work we did.
We were free to travel that summer because we were both students. She was in law school, and I had taken an educational leave of absence from IBM to start seminary studies for the ministry in the fall. But when people asked about what I did, I didn’t say I was a student. Instead, I would tell them that I was an electrical engineer working for IBM.
After seeing me respond this way several times, my friend told me something that pretty much floored me. She said that whenever I told people I worked for IBM, I did so with a subtle air of pridefulness.
That was really hard for me to believe! In fact, I was so far from believing it that I began to wonder about her motives for saying it. If you had asked me if I was a prideful person, I would have instantly, strenuously, and quite sincerely denied it. In fact, although I would never have said it out loud, I considered myself to be one of the most humble people I knew!
But I couldn’t get what she said out of my mind. As I thought about it more, I realized my friend was seeing something in me that I was entirely blind to. At that time IBM was widely considered to be the most elite company in the high-tech world. Apparently what my friend was sensing in my attitude was an unconscious conviction that working for such a company made me elite as well! Yet, I was entirely unaware of having that kind of pride, and certainly had no idea that I was communicating it to other people.
I considered myself to be one of the most humble people I knew!
Pride Can Be Really Sneaky!
As I look back on that episode, I see it as an example of how subtle our pride can be. To C. S. Lewis it is the vice we most easily overlook in ourselves. In , his classic summary of the basics of the Christian faith, Lewis put it this way: Mere Christianity
There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves… There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.
The vice I am talking of is Pride or Self-Conceit.
Actually, if I’d thought back to how I had struggled with ego earlier in my life, I wouldn’t have been so surprised at the revelation of my hidden self-conceit. I recall being with a group of friends in college when the conversation turned to a particular academic accomplishment they thought was so great that it was beyond the reach of regular students like us. But I had done it! And I still remember my anguish as I sat there trying to figure out a way to get that fact into the conversation without seeming boastful.
Pridefulness Is About Being Better Than Other People
There’s nothing wrong with having genuine satisfaction in having accomplished something worthwhile. And it’s not wrong to want people to think well of us. The Bible says that a good name is something we should desire (Proverbs 22:1).
The problem arises when we have an attitude that because of our achievements, or even things we inherited through no effort of our own, we are superior in some way to other people. Again, C. S. Lewis in his Mere Christianity essay provides great insight about what pridefulness is all about:
Pride is essentially competitive – is competitive by its very nature – while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak, by accident. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.
To my mind, it is that desire to have others see me as higher or better than someone else that is the essence of pride.
Do you consider yourself a prideful person?
What Can I Do About My Pridefulness?
The Bible warns over and over that pride can be deadly.
A man's pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor. Proverbs 29:23 (NIV)
So for my own sake, I need to mount a ruthless search and destroy mission against my self-conceit. Here are some of the steps I have found helpful in my ongoing battle to root out the hidden pride that still seeps to the surface far too often in my life:
1. Ask God to show me my hidden pride
As C. S. Lewis said, in the ordinary course of life I am unlikely to even be aware of my own pridefulness. So if I’m to deal with the hidden pride in my life, the first step is to prayerfully ask God to reveal it to me.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalms 139:23-24 (NIV)
Then I need to examine my own thoughts and motives. When I find myself taking pleasure from seeing myself as being ahead of or above other people, it may be an indication that my pridefulness is once again rearing its ugly head.
Here are some signs to look out for:
- I habitually try to draw attention to myself
- I find myself seeking praise as being better than someone else
- I’m often angry when people don’t give me the credit I think I deserve
- I’m quick to point out other people’s flaws
2. Adopt God’s perspective about my greatness
For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? 1 Corinthians 4:7 (NIV)
What is there that’s good in me that I didn’t receive as an unearned gift from God? Absolutely nothing! So, what do I have to boast about? Absolutely nothing!
3. Deliberately consider others better than myself
The Scripture tells us that if we want God to lift us up, we must first humble ourselves in His sight (James 4:10). But we can’t humble ourselves in God’s sight without humbling ourselves in the sight of other people. In fact, we are to actually consider them better than ourselves.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)
4. Consider myself a servant
I need to see myself as a servant to others.
For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. 2 Corinthians 4:5 (NIV)
People who have a servant spirit rarely have to struggle with pridefulness.
5. Take practical steps to serve others
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. John 13:14-15 (NIV)
Servants serve! As Jesus Himself demonstrated, to be a servant means finding ways to serve others, and then actually doing it.
Overcoming Pride Isn't Easy, but It's Worth It!
The Bible is clear that if we fail to rein in the pridefulness that comes so naturally to us as human beings, it can have a devastating effect on our lives. Replacing our natural pride with godly humility won’t be easy. In fact, it will be a lifelong process that we can accomplish only with God’s help. But look at the reward for doing so:
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. James 4:6 (NIV)
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:10 (NIV)
God promises that if we humble ourselves to Him rather than continuing to walk in our pride, He will lift us up and pour out His grace to meet every need we have in life.
I think that’s a pretty good deal!
VIDEO: Bible verses about pride
© 2020 Ronald E Franklin