“What? I was only trying to…I didn’t mean it that way…But I…!”
“Every excuse you’re making for this sin is saying that Christ didn’t have to die on the cross for it.”
My dear friend’s words stung my stubborn heart, but they were true. I swallowed hard.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. Proverbs 27:6
Was I willing to drop my pride? To acknowledge my wrong and move on? Beyond the sin I was hiding was a sin more elusive and more damaging—the one that undergirds almost all other sins: pride.
The Problem of Pride
As one of my pastors so grimly put, pride can be like spiritual carbon monoxide – a silent and slow killer of our relationship with God and with others.
We’re quick to recognize a boastful or pompous person, but not so adept at identifying prideful patterns in our everyday thoughts and actions. Aside from bragging, what does spiritual pride really look like? How can we spot it in our lives, and be vigilant to weed it out?
The world sees pride as something to be celebrated, but as believers we know that pride in self disturbs the Lord. When pride is rooted in selfishness and not God, it hinders us from walking by the Spirit.
“Everyone with a proud heart is detestable to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished.” Proverbs 16:5
Pride of heart is worth weeding out because it helps us to recognize sin, walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8) and dwell in the peace of His mercy.
“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” Proverbs 28:13
Consider these 4 oft-overlooked signs of pride:
1. Neglecting God’s Counsel
“To whom shall I speak and give warning that they may hear? Behold, their ears are closed And they cannot listen, Behold, the word of the LORD has become a reproach to them; They have no delight in it.” Jeremiah 6:10
Don’t pass over this one! Many of us know that studying and obeying Scripture is essential to our Christian walk.
Yet think about this more closely – are you actively filtering life through the Bible or your own opinion? Do you welcome the Word even when it’s hard to swallow?
Sometimes this isn’t a matter of obeying a command (i.e. “thou shall not steal”) but about our attitude toward it.
One way Satan works is igniting doubt about the validity of God’s Word, like he did to Eve back in the garden.
“Did God actually say…?”
If we’re not careful, pride can puff up our view over God’s, making verses like those about submitting to our husbands seem insensible or intolerable rather than protective.
One of the trademark lines in the Bible calls the proud as those who do what is “right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6).
“Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” Proverbs 16:5
Often when our heart hurts or expectations fail we turn against the Lord in angst or mistrust, relying on our own perceptions. We forget or dismiss Scripture’s repeated affirmations that God is unfailing, wise, good, and loving.
Rather than waiting upon God and resting under His authority, we formulate or force our own plans.
The fix: prayerful confession. The gospel reveals to us that we must confess and repent, and not just once for salvation, but daily. Make space in your prayers to acknowledge any bitterness, confusion, or rebellion inside and welcome God to heal it with His forgiveness in Christ. Tell the Lord if you are wrestling with an aspect of His Word, and ask for clarity and understanding, as well as a heart of obedience.
Another fix, as we’ll speak to next, is listening to fellow believers.
2. Easily Offended and Offends
“He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing.” Proverbs 29:1
Pride can break us, and even our relationships with others, when we let it have its way.
I’m all too guilty of having a stick neck. Aren’t we all? Most of us shy away from reproof. Our natural tendencies are to jump to the defensive stance, and pour out excuses. It’s as if every comment or suggestion is an attack on our dignity. (You can tell this hits home for me, huh?)
If we’re not softening our hearts with Scripture and prayer, we’ll become what the Bible calls a “scoffer” in Proverbs.
A scoffer does not like to be reproved; he will not go to the wise. Proverbs 15:12
Our husband or friend may point out sin to us in kindness and care, but all we do is leave the conversation fuming. Pride can also arise when we are controlled by feelings of being undervalued and unacknowledged, instead of confident in our identity in Christ.
Our offended nature then morphs into offending others, so we can soothe ourselves. Self-protecting sensitivity causes us to stir up strife.
“Arrogance leads to nothing but strife, but wisdom is gained by those who take advice.” Proverbs 13:10
The fix: ask for feedback and receive reproof from others with patience and grace. This does not mean that we do every piece of counsel given, but we willingly and respectfully take it, especially if it aligns with Scripture.
3. Never Satisfied or Self-Satisfied
Ironically these opposites are strong symptoms of pride.
On one hand, pride can lead us into a spirit of entitlement. “I deserve (fill in the blank).” All too often we rush to demand what we desire, instead of taking the path of joyful surrender.
“Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great for it is better to be told, “Come up here,” than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.” Proverbs 25:6-7
Talk about embarrassing right? Who in their right mind would try to stand by the king without being called? Yet when sin takes ahold of our heart, we can seek what isn’t ours to have, and again be offended when our lofty expectations aren’t answered.
Paul the apostle sets a godly contrast for us, as he speaks to the Corinthians, “If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 9:12
In context Paul is describing his decision not to earn a living from preaching the gospel, but the takeaway here is this: rather than demand his rights, Paul yields them to serve.
The fix: frequently meditate on the gospel.
Pride in our heart may be craving to have more – more attention, more possessions, more praise, more control – but the gospel teaches us that we deserve nothing and yet have everything in Jesus.
Jesus Himself relinquished His heavenly throne to dwell with and die for you and me, lowly sinners.
And what about being self-satisfied? This is the dangerous pride of lukewarm faith, of not needing God, of self-sufficiency.
“It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.” Proverbs 25:27
This can creep up if life is running smoothly, giving the illusion we are fine on our own. Such thinking hampers our pursuit of God. You may also be feeling stressed if this kind of pride comes from trying to prove yourself to others.
The fix: build hunger for God. Saturate your days with Scripture reading, books, sermons, podcasts, worship music – anything that has you focus on the Lord rather than yourself.
All of this may seem overwhelming! But that’s a good thing. The first step of letting go of pride is admitting you have it. If you’re feeling convicted, the Holy Spirit is at work in you!
Moving forward, nip these signs of pride in the bud, and prayerfully choose to embrace humility before the Lord. He is always available to those who acknowledge their need for Him.