Brokenness: The Heart God Revives
Pride is a very sneaky sin, because it often masks itself as other things. I used to think pride was simply the act of being "conceited." I used to think that if you bragged about yourself or your accomplishments, that was pride -- and it is, but pride is so much more than that. Because I was always very careful not to praise myself to others (Proverbs 27:2) I didn't think I had a problem with pride. Boy, was I ever wrong!
Pride occurs anytime we esteem ourselves higher than we should, especially when it comes to our own sense of dignity and self worth. It may or may not be accompanied by conceit. I personally think when it is not accompanied by conceit, it becomes a very slippery sin that escapes our grasp. This is the kind of pride that I struggle with.
Take for example, the feminist movement. It is a sinful response to sin. It puffs up women not because it boasts in their accomplishments, rather, it it puffs up women because it seductively convinces them that they don't need men. When we seek to be "strong" and we claim we don't need others, this is pride. We are esteeming our abilities higher than we should. We are claiming that our self-worth surpasses the worth of men. This is sin.
My biggest struggle with pride reared its ugly head in the context of my relationships with others. My tendency to run from relationships, whether they be with the same or the opposite sex, was an ugly manifestation of pride in my life. First, I was proudly elevating my abilities to an above-normal level, claiming that I had some super-human power to reject the basic human need for relationships. I wanted others to admire me for my supposed "strength." Secondly, I was elevating my own knowledge above God's. Although He said, "It is not good for man to be alone," I was insinuating through my independence that I was right and He was wrong. Finally, by keeping others at arm's length, I was able to devote all my time and energy to the god of self. But not once did I ever consider myself to be prideful because I did not appear conceited or brag about my accomplishments. Was I in sin? You betcha!
Just after I became interested in reformed theology, I read a truly incredible little book by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Brokenness: The Heart God Revives. This book didn't just teach me about brokenness - it actually was an instrument God used like a scalpel to cut out all the cancerous tumors of pride that were growing in my heart. This is a must read for anyone struggling with the sin of pride, because brokenness is the antidote to pride.
As I read this book, I began to realize that the sin of pride was so hard to detect in my heart because it had disguised itself as fear. Over the years, I had lamented that the people who hurt me the most in life were other Christians. I ran from anyone who wanted to be my friend because I was afraid of getting hurt. I used to think, "If they find out I'm not the superwoman they all think I am, they'll reject me and leave me." But DeMoss (2002) says, "Broken men and women don't care who finds out about their sin; they have nothing to protect, and nothing to lose," (p. 67). The truth God showed me was that when we are afraid of others, it is our sinful pride that we are fighting so hard to protect. It is our precious reputation, our squeaky clean image as a good Christian, and most of all, the respect of others that we don't want to lose. That is a hard pill to swallow. It gets worse:
Jesus was always drawn to those whose sin seemed egregious (from a human point of view), but were repentant over their sin. On the other hand, he was repulsed by those who looked like perfect saints but whose hearts were proud and unbroken. Could it be that God is more offended by those of us who appear to be respectable and spiritual but who have proud, unteachable spirits, than He is by adulterers, fornicators, sodomites, abortionists, or pornographers who make no pretense of being godly? The sobering reality is that proud, unbroken Christians have done far more damage to the Church of Jesus Christ than any sinners outside the church could inflict. (DeMoss, 2002, pp. 82-83).
YEEOUCH!!! That was one slap in the face I really needed. In my early walk with God, I was hurt so badly by other Christians, I left the church for six years. I was living in sin for those six years. No, I was not fornicating or shooting up heroin or frequenting seedy nightclubs. But I was marinating in pride. My expectations of others who called themselves Christians were so high I had forgotten that Christians are sinners too. And I did the very thing that I was so afraid they'd do to me: I rejected them. I sinned in response to sin. Worse, I punished everyone I met after that for what others had previously done to me. I was a Pharisee. I didn't want to give anyone a chance. I buried myself in my accomplishments and sneered that I was too busy whenever I was invited to fellowship somewhere. The truth is, I was protecting my pride. I did not want to be around others because I did not want to be hurt again. But if we are truly to become the men and women that God delights in, we can't protect our pride. We must crucify it.
Earlier this year, another trusted Christian friend sinned against me and immediately, pride reared its ugly head. Instead of forgiving right then and there, which is what I should have done, I began to compare my own righteousness to that of this other individual. I said things like, "What kind of person would do such a thing?" I continued to ask questions about this person's character and integrity until I was so deep in sin, I was actually questioning this individual's salvation! Just who did I think I was? What gave me the right to judge this person that way? My sin was probably a thousand times worse than the sin that was originally committed against me, but I rationalized that it was okay because I was hurting. I went so far as to turn my anger on God and say, "You see? I told you this 'getting close to people' was a stupid idea!" I was really walking on thin ice, but I figured God understood because I was in pain. This is the seductive power of pride. We are so blinded by pain and fear that we don't even see we're in sin. It takes a trusted, caring friend to lovingly point it out to us and make a commitment to come alongside us in the fight to mortify sin. When someone sins against us, we need to remember that person is not the enemy -- sin is the enemy.
Thankfully, God gave me the grace to forgive that person in my heart with no guarantee that we'd ever be reconciled here on earth. He gave me compassion to intercede for this person daily through prayer and to turn my focus on my own sin instead. He gave me peace to realize that He's not finished with me and that other person yet. We cannot allow the sin of pride to gain a foothold, because it can and will divide and ultimately destroy.
So where are you in regards to pride? I highly recommend Nancy Leigh DeMoss' book for further study on this topic. But for the time being, click on the book cover below to view the 41 evidences of pride found on Nancy's website and see how you do:
Reference:DeMoss, N. (2002). Brokenness: The heart God revives. Chicago: Moody Publishers.