February 11, 2009
by Katherine Britton, Crosswalk.com News & Culture Editor
"He mocks the proud but gives grace to the humble." - Proverbs 3:34
Pride possesses an uncanny ability to find loopholes in our attitudes. As soon as we recognize the disease in one area of our life, it crops up in another area. Those familiar with the southern terror of kudzu, the unstoppable plant that takes over acres of other foliage no matter what measures are taken to keep it at bay, understand pride's infuriating habit of creeping back into one's life. The ultimate irony is when we think we've temporarily conquered the monster, only to find that we're giving ourselves credit for the job. And suddenly, the monster is reincarnated.
C. J. Mahaney, in his book about humility, found this dilemma ever present. "If I met someone presuming to have something to say about humility," he wrote, "automatically I'd think him unqualified to speak on the subject." How many humble attitudes have died as soon as they were recognized?
Webster defines humility as "lowliness of mind; a modest estimate of one's own worth; a sense of one's own unworthiness through imperfection and sinfulness; self-abasement; humbleness." But I think that definition is faulty. Many with low self-esteem nonetheless cling to shreds of pride, displayed in their self-consciousness and self-focus.
Mahaney's definition shows another component of humility: a relational focus. He writes, "Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God's holiness and our sinfulness." More than a "modest estimate of one's own worth," isn't it? The end result of pride is self-consciousness; the end result of humility is consciousness of holiness, something totally outside ourselves.
What a countercultural concept.
In these days of Twitter, Facebook, reality TV, consumer marketing and the like, we become so bogged down in our own world - our own sin - that we fail to see the possibility/need for grace. Self-focused creatures that we are, our jobs, our families, and our recreation become excuses to capitalize on our strengths to earn accolades. Or they become shields to hide our weaknesses. In either case, our inward attitude blinds us to the greater picture. In walks sin - the attitude that puts the focus on ourselves before our focus on God's glory.
"When we have much of God's providential mercies," the great preacher Charles Spurgeon wrote, "it often happens that we have but little of God's grace, and little gratitude for the bounties we have received. We are full and we forget God: satisfied with earth, we are content to do without heaven. Rest assured it is harder to know how to be full than it is to know how to be hungry - so desperate is the tendency of human nature to pride and forgetfulness of God."
Amid all our blessings, has our vision become so short-sighted that we can't see beyond them? That we can't recognize sin? That we can't recognize how far short we fall of holiness? Pride is slippery, and the heart is deceitful when we compare ourselves to, well, ourselves. Let's renew our comparisons where they matter.
Intersecting Faith & Life: Manahey writes, "The warnings from Scripture about pride could not be more serious and sobering. But they're an expression of God's mercy, intended for our good. Don't you think God is merciful to warn us in this way?" Wrapped up in our self-consciousness, we don't see the gaping holes that lie ahead. Grab a concordance and read a few of the references under "pride" and "proud" (you'll find quite a few). Pride has no room to creep back in when we leave ourselves behind, so let's refocus our hearts on true holiness.