Is It Wrong to Be Proud?
“The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.” Psalms 10:4
Jonathan Edwards, a 16th century American Christian preacher and theologian wrote: “There is no sin so much like the devil as pride. It is a secret and subtle sin, and appears in a great many shapes which are undetected and unsuspected.”
Do you agree with Edwards' comment? I do. The having and the nurturing of sinful pride can lead to a multitude of other sins. There is an old saying that “pride goes before the fall.” The saying is actually related to what is said in Proverbs 16:18, where arrogance is described as the precursor to downfall. To me, it means God has programmed it into the human condition for those who lose touch with humility, who allow pride to go unchecked, to fall prey to the abandonment of all sensibility and reasonableness in favor of the destructive nature of self-worship.
“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18
The word “pride,” in Webster’s dictionary, is defined as “inordinate self-esteem.” The word “inordinate” refers to something that exceeds reasonable limits, and is unregulated. Self-esteem that is unregulated, that exceeds reasonable limits, is not pleasing to God. This type of self-esteem is the exact opposite of humility (a spirit of submission). Opposed to humility, unregulated or unchecked pride leads one to become arrogant (which means “a feeling or an impression of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner). God is pleased when we are humble, and He is not pleased when we are filled with “inordinate self-esteem” and arrogance.
“Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him that hath it: but the instruction of fools is folly.” Proverbs 16:22
But there is also another definition of the word “pride.” That other definition says pride is “a reasonable or justifiable self-respect.” Therefore, because pride has more than one definition; two faces, if you will, then there is hope that we can use the human characteristic of pride for godly goodness.
It is a good thing that in the proper proportions, demonstrating pride in terms of being respectful of your own self-worth is a positive and desirable trait. God gives us that kind of pride for self-preservation. On the other hand, in unregulated, unchecked proportions, pride can fall out of balance, and becomes a negative trait. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 11:1-6:
“A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight. When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.”
“Inordinate self-esteem,” is unregulated pride. And it is a “false balance” because it is unchecked, “blown-up” and out of control. Think about it. Anything that is unregulated runs the risk of becoming out of balance. When we allow pride to overtake us, to become inordinate self-esteem, we are really becoming ruled by ignorance of God’s ways and/or rebelliousness against God’s word. And that’s not good.
Perhaps it is difficult for many, especially those who have great wealth, to be thankful for anything. Maybe having an overabundance of anything, good looks, a great body, a brilliant mind, an endless supply of money and things, can cause temporary blindness to the need to feel gratitude for having such things. And perhaps indulging in prideful behavior, which is sinful, more often than not leads to the having of even more pride about everything. That’s why the Apostle Paul said to the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 10:12) “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.”
Not balancing/regulating pride can cause one to become “puffed up,” or arrogant, and arrogance leads to one seeing him or herself in a much more superior position as human beings than is merited. Unregulated pride, because it is conceited, will automatically influence how you treat other people that you come into contact with every day. Since it causes you to see you as a superior human, then that means others must be inferior, at least as compared to you.
“He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” Proverbs 16:32
Unchecked pride is a negative character trait that moves a person away from God and closer to thoughts of his or her own making. There have been arrogantly prideful people throughout the history of mankind who came to believe so much in their own greatness that they created religions worshipping them (disguised as worship of God). Many others have built statues and sometimes even buildings or cities to bear their names, not for the purpose of helping others, but so that they could delightfully bask in their own glory.
Pride is sinful because it influences us to believe that in ourselves and as we are, we are perfect and able to move through life on our own power. When you are among the arrogantly proud, you feel no need for God or His teachings, because you truly believe you have “arrived” at a place of perfection, in your own opinion; where there is, as far as you are concerned, no one in the universe greater than you.
The arrogant proud often keep people in their lives only for their own use. They are so powerful, after all, that they don’t really need others, because using their wealth, influence, or power, they can do any and all things all by themselves.
“There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Proverbs 16:25
Unregulated pride leads one to believe she or he is “a cut above” everyone else—more important, more deserving, and more qualified and capable too. This kind of pride “blinds” the proud to the contributions of others in their success. Arrogantly proud people are likely to minimize the contributions of others to any effort, while inflating their own contributions. No one gets to success alone. No matter what an arrogantly proud person chooses to believe, others people have been instrumental in any and all of his or her achievements, no matter who is given final credit.
I’ve noticed that people who understand the destructive nature of inordinate self-esteem are quick to acknowledge the contributions of others to their success. This, while those full of arrogant pride foolishly try to make everyone believe they alone are responsible for any and all of their success. The Bible speaks about this in Proverbs 13:11-12, where it is written: “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.”
When someone allows his or her self-esteem to become inflated over skills/abilities, looks, accomplishments, or anything else, he or she is really showing great ignorance of God’s way. Since wisdom dwells with the “well advised,” it is better to learn God’s ways and instructions for how you are to live, so that you don’t fall prey to the many snares of ignorance—one of which is arrogant pride.
A lot of what comes out of a person, as pride is actually a need to be noticed. I remember when I was a child in grade school there was always some child in the classroom that had an overwhelming desire to be noticed. It might be a girl or a boy, but this child would do just about anything to get all the attention placed on him or her. It didn’t matter what kind of tactic they had to use. If it took becoming the brunt of a joke, that was fine; if it meant making someone else the brunt of a joke, that was okay too, as long as all eyes were plastered in the direction of the joker.
“Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.” Proverbs 16:19
People suffering from an overdose of arrogant pride are like those grade-school jokesters that had a desperate need to be noticed. The arrogantly proud don’t care if God wants them to be humble, and they don’t care that they can cause hurt feelings or incite bitterness in others when they assert their superiority over others, at any cost. None of this matters because of the need these people have to be “superior.”
Perhaps what is really going on is that, deep inside, they feel a lack of self-worth for some reason, and the need to have worth and value comes out as a cry for an inordinate amount of attention.
Eighteenth century theologian, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) wrote: “Pride is a person having too high an opinion of himself. Pride is the first sin that ever entered into the universe, and the last sin that is rooted out. Pride is the worst sin. It is the most secret of all sins. There is no other matter in which the heart is more deceitful and unsearchable. Alas, how much pride the best have in their hearts! Pride is God’s most stubborn enemy.”
I believe the arrogantly proud have chosen not to fight "God's most stubborn enemy." They have an “unmet” spiritual need to feel special. But because they don’t really know God, they don’t know how to obtain this feeling without placing themselves, along with their talents and abilities, above those of other people—in their own mind.
© 2012 Sallie B Middlebrook PhD