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Pride vs. Humility: A Case of the "Better Than's"
Pride was what was on my plate today, a heaping portion of "I-can-do-that-better-than-so-and-so" along with a generous helping of "I-think-I'm-better-than-anyone-else-in-general". Thank the Lord, He stopped me before I consumed too much of this sickening combination, and reminded me that I do not have anything apart from Him. I find often myself tempted to believe these lies, to get a case of the "better than's", when I start feeling sorry for myself. This can also happen when I want to feel confident, or when I want to feel needed, or when I want attention, or when -- well, there are a lot of reasons I let my thoughts go in that direction, and none of them are good. Then I start feeling guilty for thinking that way, and plunge myself into a round of false humility. Once again, not good. I have a blessed Redeemer, though, who has shown me this pattern in my life and has taught me how to avoid it during the last few years. I still have days like today when these attitudes rise to the surface, but I am thankful for the Holy Spirit's tap on my shoulder that keeps me from allowing the attitudes to stay in my heart. The key is to cut those thoughts and attitudes off as soon as they appear so as not to allow them to take root. As soon as the Holy Spirit convicts me, repenting of my pride and then thanking God for all the gifts and blessings He has given me (as well as the gifts He has placed in others!) gets my heart back in the right place.
Understanding the Difference
I started asking the Lord "what does true humility look like?" a while back. One of the first things He told me was that it was not was this "ho-hum, I can't do anything, I'm pathetic" attitude I would let myself fall into, all the while believing that that was humility. Humility is confident. The difference between pride and humble confidence is the one in whom the confidence is placed. Pride has confidence in my abilities, my strength, my intelligence, and so forth. Humility has confidence in God and His ability to do "far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us" 1 -- His power. Humility realizes it has nothing on its own to give, and rejoices in the fact. It rejoices because it knows the One who is the source of all things. Even things that I have worked to achieve mean nothing apart from Him. I may have an advanced degree -- but who gave me a mind and intelligence? I may be physically attractive -- but who made me? I may be able to sing like a bird -- but who gave me a voice in the first place? I may see healing come to people's bodies and hearts when I pray for them -- but who holds the power to heal? If I am not the source of ability, natural appearance, talent, or spiritual gifting, how can I think myself better than the next person? I may be more advanced in an area of learning or skill, but should not I as a believer realize that means I should be using that advancement to help others out of love rather than stare down at them scornfully from my lofty perch of supposed perfection? Paul says in Romans 12:3: "For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think as to have sound judgement, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith." He goes on to speak of the different gifts given to the the body of Christ, and how each person is to exercise those gifts in proportion to their faith. The gifts were not given to make anyone "better than" the next person, but so that we might serve one another. The gifts God gives us are for others, not ourselves, with the end goal always being the glorification of the Giver.
Pride can work the other way as well, making us feel superior to someone else not just because of who we are or what we have, but because of what are not. A great example of this is the parable Jesus told concerning the Pharisee and the tax collector.2 Both men went to the temple to pray, but the Pharisee had a terrible case of the "better than's", rattling off to God not only all of the (self)righteous things he did, but reminding God of his superiority to many others whom he saw as beneath him, including the man praying next to him. The tax collector, on the other hand, was only aware of his own sin before God, comparing himself to no one and confessing his need for God's mercy and forgiveness. Pride always compares itself with others. Humility only sees Jesus and the need for Him alone. Jesus, the only One who could deserve the status of "better than", and yet He made Himself nothing on our behalf. How can I do any less for my King? I cannot. By the power of His Holy Spirit I can overcome my pride and the "better than's" to bring glory to the One who, because of His humility, is highly exalted above all things.
1. Ephesians 3:20b
2. Luke 18:10-14
Note: all Scripture quoted is from the NASB.