My friend Laura posted this a few days ago and I thought it was an interesting jumping off point for a related thought. Pride is a problem in Western culture. We shout from the rooftops every little thing we do that seems to be the least bit incredible. And we do it all through Facebook, Twitter, and our vainly self-titled websites. Er, wait. Dang. Self-inflicted wound there.
Anyway, the way I see it, it can be entirely possible to go the other way and be proud of our humility. We talk about how important humility is and we pursue it like a hunter after an elusive prey. But what if humility is not something that we can find, but something we simply are? We can strip away our pride and our desire for attention, but if humility is not something that we already have, can it be found?
I’m going to take the quote that Laura had from Beth Moore and make a little change to it:
Humility is not the opposite of high self-esteem. Humility is the opposite of pride. We can have a serious humility problem that masquerades as high self-esteem. Humility is self-rejection whether we’re rejecting how happy we are or how miserable we are.
Does it make sense going the other direction too? Is humility the absence of pride or is it a separate entity? Can pride coexist with humility? I believe that yes it can, if we are careful with our definitions.
Pride isn’t simply self-absorbed excitement about how awesome we are. Pride can also be a motivational tool to push us to be better and do better. I have pride in the work I do, not because I think it’s better than anyone else’s, but because it reflects on who I am and on the company I work for. I have pride in what I write here because I want it to be an accurate reflection of who I am and what I think.
The fatal kind of pride happens when we allow our accomplishments to define who we are. I am proud of my children and what they say and do. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve finished two degrees and am halfway through a third, all while working full time, raising a family, being a husband, and serving as a volunteer leader and pastor at my church. I’m also very aware of my own depravity and moral failures, knowing that all of these accomplishments are meaningless in the long term, eternal view. That awareness of my utter dependence on God disallows me any fatal pride in myself.
Don’t get me wrong, it is impossible for me to say that I have no “bad” pride at all. I do. My natural inclination is towards humility though. A recent (last 10 years?) trend that makes me crazy is athletes who point to their jerseys or pull them away from their bodies after a big play as if to say, “Look at me, I just did that!” Yeah, chief, we know you did. We were watching the game. Just do your job, shut up, and play.
What I’m aiming at here is that we can’t let humility become an idol either, the way pride often does. Humility is not the goal, it’s not what we are striving for. Humility is a byproduct of our relationship with Christ. When we religiously seek a closer relationship with him, we began to more closely resemble what Jesus is. We are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). We will never reach the same perfection that Christ did, but we strive to close that gap.
Am I right about this? No idea. What do you think?