I Can Do It Myself: A Story of Pride
Pride and I go way back. Way, way, waaaaaaaay back.
I hardly know where to begin this story, so let’s start with the fact that I’m the oldest of five children. I was an only child for nearly 4 years. Three years, seven months, and 25 days to be exact. Plenty of time to become convinced that I was the biggest, strongest, fastest, smartest and therefore most qualified to boss around my two younger brothers and two younger sisters (as they each came along).
And then there was my experience in school. There are times when a gift that God intends as a great blessing can be a stumbling block, and this was one of them. Somehow, I ended up in a second grade reading class — while in kindergarten. I excelled in every academic area. (Let’s not talk about my disciplinary problems. This is about how great I was. In fact, when given a timeout and told to count to 100 in the corner, I could do it in less than 30 seconds. I was that good. Ask me at church, and I’ll tell you my secret trick.)
In later elementary or middle school grades, I recall a special aptitude test that was supposed to determine my strengths and suggest a direction for my future career. The results? I did above average in all the subjects and way beyond average in several of them. Sheesh. So much for the test that was supposed to help me decide what to do with my life. It didn’t help me one bit.
Things got worse. I entered the adult work world around the same time that PCs were becoming widespread in offices. Microsoft Word and WordPerfect were replacing typewriters and obscure high-end professional publishing software like FrameMaker. A little while later, email started replacing fax machines. Because I was young and quick to learn, I ended up teaching many co-workers who were older than I was. Then I started writing curriculum to teach them. Then the World-Wide Web came around, and I was writing web pages to help people.
Always, always, I found myself in a position of greater knowledge, professionally, than most others around me. I was always the expert with a ready answer for any problem. And if I didn’t know the answer, I would research it and show up the next day with a solution in mind.
Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? “What’s the problem, Teddi? Why are you telling us how great you are?”
I thought I had all the answers.
The Downfalls of Pride
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. - Proverbs 16:18 NKJV
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. - Proverbs 11:2 NIV
We’ve all heard the proverbs. It’s easy to acknowledge that pride is a bad thing. For a long time, I worked really hard to be humble. Because I thought humility was something you did, like saying, “Oh, it’s not that great,” when someone admired my artwork. And not taking credit publicly when I fixed something or solved something (of course, the people involved all knew it was me who saved them).
But despite all this “hard work” at “humility”, I still experienced many of the downfalls of pride:
I over-committed and burned out, because I felt I was the best person for the job, every job.
I didn’t notice when my attitude offended others, because I was blinded by my certainty that I was right.
I missed the chance to learn from amazing teachers, because I was satisfied with what I knew and didn’t ask questions.
I denied others the chance to exercise their gifts, because I took assignments that should have been theirs.
I shut down the chance to receive feedback from others, because it was obvious that I wasn’t open to hearing it.
I sacrificed things that were important in order to make sure I didn’t fail at something that I shouldn’t have been doing in the first place.
Oh, yes, the list could go on. I’m very thankful to Jesus that my life didn’t go worse than it has, given the amount of pride lodged in my heart. And despite my determination to be humble, even that was tainted by the fact that I wanted humility because I couldn’t stand to be less than perfect.
God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. - James 4:6
God sends no one away empty except those who are full of themselves. – Dwight L. Moody
How can we receive help in our weakness when we won’t admit we have any?
What Is The Antidote to Pride?
The proud person always wants to do the right thing, the great thing. But because he wants to do it in his own strength, he is fighting not with man, but with God. - Soren Kierkegaard
As Pastor Bill shared this past Sunday, true humility is seeing ourselves through God’s eyes. But I was afraid to look at myself honestly, because of all the flaws I knew were there. Surely if I was flawed, then I was “bad” and not worthy of God’s approval, or anyone else’s. This way of thinking misses the entire point of the gospel! I’d heard it over and over again: that Jesus had died for my sins, that God saw me as perfect through the blood of Jesus. But for a long time it didn’t click into place. I wanted so much to have God’s approval because of something I did, because I earned it.
Too bad, Teddi. God’s approval isn’t something you can earn.
There’s no amount of effort on my part that will erase my flaws or make me perfect. The real “good news” is that whether I do something great or not, whether or not I’m perfect, I have my Father’s love and approval. And if I truly want to see that smile on Daddy-God’s face, then I ought to admit my weakness, and take the strength that He is holding out to me, and use that to accomplish my task.
How much greater is God’s joy when we are partnered together, working in unity, than when I am stubbornly trying to do it all by myself?
I don’t need to impress anyone. There is no opinion on earth greater than the opinion of Creator God. And God isn’t impressed by me doing things on my own.
We Are Made For Communion, And For Community
Finally embracing this truth, seeing myself through God’s eyes, was step one. And step two was seeing others through God’s eyes (if this sounds familiar, it is — I mentioned it a few weeks ago when I talked about dealing with our differences). When I look at everyone around me through the eyes of love and through the eyes of our mutual Father, then I realize something else amazing: Not only does God want me to partner with HIM, but He wants me to partner with THEM.
God didn’t design me to do these things all by myself. He placed gifts in me so I could do my parts, and gifts in you (and you, and you), so you could do your parts. And when we all work together, and the unique strengths we each bring come together in the power of God’s Spirit, BAM. There’s a synergy and a multiplication of effectiveness that is out of this world!
P.S. A lot of wise people had things to say about pride. Here are a few:
Pride is at the bottom of a great many errors and corruptions, and even of many evil practices, which have a great show and appearance of humility. – Matthew Henry
Most of the trouble in the world is caused by people wanting to be important.- T.S. Eliot
No one enjoys feeling weak, whether it is emotionally, spiritually or physically. There is something within the human spirit that wants to resist the thought of weakness. Many times this is nothing more than our human pride at work. Just as weakness carries a great potential for strength, pride carries an equally great potential for defeat. – Charles Stanley
Pride comes from not knowing yourself and the world. The older you grow, and the more you see, the less reason you will find for being proud. Ignorance and inexperience are the pedestal of pride; once the pedestal is removed – pride will soon come down. – J.C. Ryle
If I had only one sermon to preach it would be a sermon against pride. - G. K. Chesterton