Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pride: What's the difference between being prideful and taking pride in something?

Last Saturday Isaac and I had a discussion about pride. I asked some questions I'd been thinking about. 

We tell people to take pride in their work, but to be prideful is a bad thing. What's the difference? It isn't wrong for an Olympic athlete to know they're good at their sport. What is the dividing line between recognizing the truth about yourself and being prideful? It is good for an intelligent person to teach others and sometimes to firmly rebuke those that are wrong, but then being caught up in your own intelligence and making an idol out of it is bad. Where is the difference?

It was a serious discussion because both Isaac and I identify that pride is something that we both struggle with and really always have. It's also a cultural struggle. Indonesia is very self-effacing. If you are complimented it is very culturally inappropriate to accept the compliment. You must always be modest and counter with, "oh no no... I'm just average, it's just normal." Here in the US that response smacks of either false modesty or insecurity, and we teach kids to recognize their accomplishments. We teach young adults to identify their skills and strengths and be able to sell themselves well in order to get good jobs and impress bosses.

Where IS the line between being appropriately culturally confident and being prideful?

One thing that struck me last week as I thought about people that I think of as prideful and people that I think of as humble is that they can be equally gifted and aware of their gifting. The prideful person, though, needs their gift/skill/strength/achievement to be recognized, while the humble person doesn't. It's most easily seen when recognition isn't given, or when something that you feel you have achieved is called into question.

I can see it in the discussions online about health care or just about any intense discussion. Someone can be extremely intelligent and knowledgeable, the type of person that should be taken as an expert on the topic. Despite this, their perspective is attacked and treated as stupid simply because people disagree with them politically. How does that individual respond?  Are they able to simply be okay with others disagreeing or questioning them, or are they infuriated that their intelligence or knowledge is in question and they defend themselves dramatically or turn and begin to attack the other side? A humble person doesn't demand that their rightness or intelligence or expertise be recognized - they're able to simply state their case and be done with it.

It's the same in leadership. It's easy for a leader to appear humble when they're being praised, but the rubber meets the road when their skill and ability to lead is called into question. Does that questioning of their ability cause them to become defensive and angry? That's a human response, but it also shows that there's pride invested in this particular gifting or position.

The people that I know that are most characterized by humility are able to let go of praise or recognition or whatever else it is that has been given to them because they do not see their identity tied in that particular thing. Since they have an accurate view of themselves, they are okay with or without the recognition and admiration of those around them. Funny...now that I think of it... I think humility is often closely tied to a quiet confidence, and accurate view of self. Pride and insecurity go hand in hand, I think. We need our ego stroked because we feel insecure about the issue, and thus when the ego is not stroked we become defensive or angry. When we are secure in our own giftings and limitations, we don't need to be recognized and are able to take our eyes off of ourselves.

There was a sermon about pride at our church right after Isaac and I had this discussion and I had the hardest time paying attention. I did hear him use the passage in Philippians 2 about Christ's humility and it struck me as being an perfect example of what I just said.

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant. "

This is, of course, far beyond the question of pride. Still, it says something related to it. We are to follow the example of Christ, and Christ's example was to give up what was RIGHTLY his. He grasp hold of his identity - he gave it up in order to serve those he loved.

Remarkable. How can I transfer this lesson to my own life? Where do the things I justifiably take pride in become things that I NEED, that I insist on being recognized, that I fearfully hold closely lest they be taken away and my true weakness be revealed?


Young Mom said...

Very true. I've been learning the difference between self-confidance and bragging, and surpirsingly (to me at least) its ok to be self confidant.

Jaimie said...

I always had a hard time grasping the idea that pride meant you should DENY the truth. For instance, I am intelligent. When people say I'm intelligent, it seems counter-productive to answer, "Oh, no, I'm really not" and have them compliment me again and again, zeroing in the focus on me. Better to say, "Thanks," and compliment them back. To take a compliment, as you would want people to take your compliments.

This chapter from "The Screwtape Letters" revolutionized it for me. Leave it to CS Lewis to make sense. If you haven't read it, read it sometime. The guy at this link provides a PDF attachment (which I opened to make sure it doesn't have a virus).

It's short and awesome.


It's a somewhat different approach from what you described here. I like your thoughts as well. (Sometimes I think we all have to approach pride differently... using whatever mind game works the best, lol.)

CM said...

Great distinction! I have been trying to figure that out recently and haven't had much luck with it. I think you've hit the nail on the head. I definitely have some pride to work on! Along with my insecurity... :)

s-p said...

There is a story from the Desert Fathers about a monk who desires to learn humility. (Short version): The Abba says, "Go to the graveyard and hurl insults, then go back and praise the dead." He asks the monk, "What happened when you insulted and praised them?" The monk said, "Nothing." ...In the same way so we must be dead to ourselves. The evidence of humility is when we are neither angered nor puffed up by praise or insults. The desire to have our good works be noticed and to be defensive when our shortcomings are pointed out are signs of pride. It is not the person who puts on a falsely humble front but the person who "does not think more highly of himself than he ought, but thinks of himself with sound judgment" (Rom. 12:6) is truly humble because one recognizes all good gifts are from God and all failures are ours. One of the "tests for pride" someone once told me to try was "Go and do something really nice for someone anonymously and tell no one... ever, in any way even cryptically."

clairesd said...

Kacie, I remember you linking awhile back on YoungMom's blog about Amy's story of how she left the convent. I cannot seem to find her blog now. Would you mind linking to it for me? I would really appreciate it, I would love to hear the end of the story.


Joseluis said...

This is nice SD; I was thinking about the difference between the two and this come up on the Google search and provided me with the answer I sense I was looking for. I'll have to return to your site to read about more of your insights :)

Anonymous said...

Some people havent made the connection that humility is confidence and pride is insecurity and I think that's great that you've written that here :) I love God so much and I know He will heal me of my pride! Keep up the good writing...

AHLondon said...

CS Lewis is the go to source for this, both Screwtape mentioned above and Mere Christianity.
Pride is the opposite cutoff from God as despair. In despair one thinks they are not worthy of forgiveness, so don't believe the sacrifice and promise. They think they are so far gone they are irredeemable. Therefore they are cut off from God because they stop seeking Him. Pride does the same thing. The Prideful person thinks that they are good and that good comes from themselves. Think of the pious person that thinks they are better than others. These people think that they don't need God, they are so good and pious that they are God's chosen pet. Think of Moses right before reaching the Promised Land asking the people who brought them this far, he did. God reminds him that Moses was only the willing channel for God. God did the work. This is why Moses is only allowed to see, but not enter, the Promised Land. The Prideful man separates himself from God by assuming that the spark within him is of his own doing. This is what Christ denied in the example you mention. Everything good we do is due to the divine spark within us, not because of us.
When Lewis writes about Satan being willing to tolerate any good in a person for the trade of Pride, he means that Satan knows the two ways to cut off a man from God, make him think he is unworthy, or make him think God is not necessary. The regular pride, good feeling about a job well done, is a totally different concept.
I need to edit this rambling comment but time to get kids. Sorry.

CurshDude said...

I do not think it is possible for a person to be in any given circumstance and learn to always be without pride. There are many circumstances we should NEVER be in for the fact that we WILL be with pride!

One good example is being famous. You cannot be famous without wreaking of pride. As a matter of fact, if you did end up famous, on a big stage, standing front of teen worshipers, and then felt sick because of the pride they shoved into you, then you would promptly leave the stage, never to return. But who does that? All people who get in that situation soak it up for what its worth.

It is important that we do not walk in pride. It is sinful. And all sin is the same. Something that we are to repent and separate ourselves from every time it makes its way into the room. If we allow ourselves to have a job that flatters us, then we should leave it. None of us have the ability to live amongst Sin. God knows the difference between getting hit by Sin unexpectedly versus willfully subjecting ourselves to it daily. Doing something to make others envy you is no better than watching porn. I know these things. I have done them all. When God came into my life, I was standing on a stage in a nightclub, playing the guitar for a bunch of boozers. But when my heart changed, I saw people in pain. They praised me so much for what I could do. But it made me sick in the stomach. I wanted no more of it. And to this day, I have never let a prideful remark find its way into my heart. And I make sure that it doesn't happen to the children God asked me to raise.

There is no good pride. The Bible speaks of it in a single context. Pride can seem good. But it is never good. Affirmation isn't something we strive for. A job well done isn't holy behavior.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this! I see it was written in 2010. This morning, I'm preparing for a life group lesson and simply googled "relationship between pride and insecurity". I found your blog, and it has provided a great help. Thank you for sharing, and for being a blessing!

Jeff Griffiths