This is the second of a five part series. The last essay was about the impulse of greed. This essay is about the impulse of pride. Pride is a serious character flaw. On the other hand confidence is a trait that we all could have more of. Confidence is good but pride is not good. When David said that he would go out and fight Goliath he was accused of being prideful. David was not prideful, he was confident. God put confidence and faith in David’s heart so he would have the courage to save Israel from defeat and servitude by overpowering the giant on the battlefield.
Here’s a practical everyday illustration of prideful impulses; say we need or want to buy a new car for ourselves. Our wife has a passenger car and suggests that we should consider a van or SUV to haul the kids around or maybe pick up some mulch, flowers, or plants for the beds outside the house. Instead of even considering a utility vehicle we buy a two-seater sports car because we either think we deserve it or like the idea of being seen in it. So we buy a sports car. These types of inward impulses are often very subtle; yet, they provoke less than desirable behavior and bad decisions. The obvious remedy we have for this is to pause so we can check our true motives. If we’re truly honest, we will likely figure out what is really motivating us.
On a more serious note, years ago I was a pastoral staff member of a medium size church in Indiana. The pastor asked me to visit a young man in jail who was being held over in a murder trial. He was in his early twenties, handsome, middle class, clean shaven, gentle and smart. He was not what I was expected when I started my visits with him. This young man was out one night with friends when a group of bullies pushed and taunted his friend group. He went home, grabbed his riffle and came back to the beach where it happened. Tragically, this young man shot and killed one of the young bullies who humiliated him. When the judge handed down a fifteen year sentence after the jury convicted this young defendant of second degree murder the judge said something that is hard to forget as he perused the packed courtroom, we have lost not just one but two young men today, this is a case of pride cometh before a fall.
Good decisions are not always easy to make. We are often confused, misguided, misinformed or not informed when important decisions and choices are in front of us. We can also feel the weight of societal, political, familial and peer pressure that can cloud our thinking. Then there are impulses of pride that can strike the match that kindle our hostilities, humiliations, offenses and resentments. Once again, we should pause so we can check our true motives. In other words hit the pause button! And search out our motives; the inward motions and impulses of the heart.
Pride can also keep us from learning and receiving guidance that could really help us. I have the opportunity to be around some very smart and capable people not only in my family but also friends and colleagues. It has not always been the case for me, but as I have grown older I want to learn more from the people in my orbit. Our spouse and kids, friends and colleagues, and yes our parents, no matter what age we are – all have something to teach us. We learn by asking questions and listening; not talking about ourselves so much. Most of us have heard the old saying that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. This is still a good axiom.
I looked up the word pride in the English language; a high or inordinate opinion of ones dignity, importance, merit or superiority; wether as cherished in mind or conduct – conduct meaning what we do or say, how we act and what we speak. The Scripture affirms, out of abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Of course, we can all say something uncharacteristically prideful or hurtful; times we just don’t really mean what we are saying because we said it in the heat of the moment. This is not what this verse is referring to. It means our word patterns reveal the inner impulses in our hearts – impulses of all kinds including humility and its ever present competitor, pride and self -importance. What we have to say is just not more important than listening to others and what they are about and who they are. We should not be on the front-page of our conversations with people – I talk is less relational that we talk. Over time self-centered conversation wears people out. We can do better if we pause and listen more. I’m still working on this and it’s not easy! This is an invitation to join in the struggle.
The worst of pride is how this impulse has an impact on our spiritual life. Please do not let this happen! The Scripture is clear, God resists the proud but giveth grace to the humble. When God plants the seed of redemptive faith in our hearts – we say yes to Him. When God works in us to follow him more closely we don’t resist but give ourselves to Him.
St. Paul was a respected Jewish academic. Paul was really smart. He was mentored by one of the greatest minds of his day. Paul breathed rarefied air at the pinnacle of the pharisaical hierarchy. He was a highly revered theologian and scholar. Although Jewish he had close ties with Rome. He was granted coveted Roman Citizenship with all rights and privileges. Paul received high-praise in established yet hypocritical religious, secular and political circles because he persecuted the newly formed church – so to speak, Paul was the sheriff in town. Paul had much to be proud about – he was on top of his world.
Then God happened! Paul surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. After his conversion and subsequent service to the church Paul’s writings in the New Testament reflect a humble disposition and a life surrendered. He once wrote to one of the churches, I am the chiefest among sinners because I persecuted the church of God but by the grace of God I am what I am! In another verse Paul writes, Yet Indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus Christ my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them rubbish, that I might gain Christ, This is not a proud Paul but a humbled Paul.
No matter how far we have drifted or how proud and obstinate we have been there is always hope for us. I can’t resist sharing this story about my dear Aunt Pat who had proudly and openly resisted God for years. She became a Christian just shy of her 89th birthday. You would think this writer of Christian essays had led her down this path. No not me. It was a resident, and curiously not one that I thought was a real good influence, who taught her to daily read the Bible and pray at the assisted living complex in her last days. This quiet-time with God led to her to Christ – a real conversion experience. I guess my Aunt Pat and I both were humbled just enough; her to receive what she needed in spite of herself and me to see it without me.
Next Next Essay Essay: Impulse: Envy
Joseph C. Hutchison, Rochester Hills Michigan, September 2020, Published by Permission Only