One of the most dangerous qualities of pride is that it sneaks into places in our hearts where other sins once lived. We begin to conquer some sinful attitude, or habit, or addiction with God’s help, and soon enough we marvel at our own strength, or resolve, or purity, as if we somehow accomplished it on our own. C.S. Lewis writes, “The devil loves ‘curing’ a small fault by giving you a great one” (Mere Christianity, 127). The confidence we feel in ourselves after defeating sin can carry us as far away from God as, or even farther than, the sin we defeated.
If we battle some sins, but welcome pride, we will lose the war. But if we suffocate pride, we will starve every other sin of its oxygen.
Pride’s War Against You
Pride lingers in us more than most sins because we fail to see how poisonous and deadly it really is. Pride colors our perception of ourselves and the world around us, blowing a thick, treacherous fog over reality. It cripples our souls, keeping us so focused on ourselves that we’re almost physically incapable of love. And it will damn us if we let it, dragging us to death, but making us believe we’re in control.
1. Pride will lie to you.
Pride convinces us we are more important than God, and that our perspective is better than his. “The heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). Your heart. More specifically, the pride in your heart (Obadiah 1:3), which declares you know more or better than the all-knowing God. We can be blindly led along by our pride, which Solomon calls “the lamp of the wicked” (Proverbs 21:4).
Lewis, who calls pride “the great sin,” writes, “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you” (124). Pride sets our eyes firmly on ourselves — our needs, our gifts, our effort, our problems — and away from the sovereignty, sufficiency, and beauty of God. It clouds our vision of him, and elevates our vision of self. It not only blinds us to him, but removes any motivation to seek him (Psalm 10:4).
Worst of all, pride often wears the appearance of godliness, but lacks its power completely (2 Timothy 3:2–5), breeding false confidence and sure destruction.
2. Pride will cripple you.
Pride blinds and deceives us, but it also cripples us, making us ineffective and fruitless. We become so focused on our own life that we waste it. Again, Lewis writes, “Pride is a spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense” (125). If it goes untreated, pride multiplies and spreads, corrupting even our best attitudes and efforts. It must be killed, and killed consistently with routine heart-checks and the sword of the Spirit, God’s word (Ephesians [6:17]).
If we sense a lack of compassion for needs around us, or a drying up of our generosity, or a coldness in our concern for the unconverted, or an indifference or even reluctance in serving or sacrificing for others, we very likely have the malignant cells of pride reproducing in our souls.
3. Pride will kill you.
If we allow pride to live freely in us, it can only kill us. Its prime objective is not to make us feel better about ourselves, but to send us to everlasting pain and punishment away from God. Solomon warns us, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs [16:18]). Isaiah brings that terrifying warning into higher definition: “The Lord of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up — and it shall be brought low” (Isaiah [2:12]).
All pride must perish. In fact, every prideful person must pay that awful penalty. But God, in Christ, made it possible for us to die to our pride without dying for it. Jason Meyer writes, “The glory of God and the pride of man will collide at one of two crash sites: hell or the cross. Either we will pay for our sins in hell or Christ will pay for our sins on the cross” (Killjoys, 13).
Either pride will kill you, or you will surrender through faith and allow God to kill the pride in you.
Your War Against Pride
So how do we kill the pride that threatens to kill us? Meyer continues, “Ultimately, pride is a worship issue. We cannot think about ourselves less unless we think about something else more” (18). We do not defeat pride by thinking more about ourselves, but by focusing on finding more of God. Which echoes Lewis’s popular definition of humility: “Humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less.”