Pride

by Jay Bowman (source below)

Pride is not one thing but a cluster of things.

It starts with our need for peer approval. It invades and corrupts respect for our fellowman. It issues in words and deeds that are callous and barbaric. No one is safe from this sin. A bad man is ruled by it. A good man is never safe from it. Universal, irrepressible, it infects the wise and the foolish. the great and the small, the pious and the ungodly. And, scarcely could anything be found that God hates more.

 

The Hebrew Old Testament has more than a dozen ways to express pride. Several words (ga’ah for example) have the notion of elevating oneself, of rising up or lifting up, making high or exalting oneself. Others mean to make oneself great, large or wide. Others express dignity, haughtiness. Of course, all these terms have evil connotations that go beyond their etymologies. The two words that best indicate where pride leads are “the disdainful mocker” (lutz) and “the seething, defiant one” (zadon).

 

Likewise, in the Greek New Testament the terms are various and colorful. Examples are: to “appear above” others, to gloat or brag, to be like a quack in a medicine show, to make empty pretensions, to exalt oneself, to be puffed up as with air or smoke, to “think” oneself “above” others, to “think down” toward others and to make oneself glorious without cause. Three words are especially significant: (1) huperephania—to “appear above” others, (2) hubris—to insult and injure others, and (3) alazon—to swagger and boast about real or imagined greatness.

 

The prevalence of this sin comes from the innate desire to be noticed and appreciated. It is powerful in some, tyrannical in others. It is one of the earliest and most persistent of all human needs. We sense it almost from birth. We spend our lives trying to win a place for ourselves in the hearts of others. Enormous energy is spent on it. Prodigious amounts of time and resources are devoted to it. And, when we finally come to the end of our way and few things really matter, this is one of our chief concerns—to be loved, respected and remembered.

 

Life without dignity leaves a gaping hole in our hearts. Pride is a cheap way to fill that void. For some men, a lifetime of sacrifice and labor is the price of respect. Others believe they can accomplish it by merely pretending to be wise, rich or virtuous. They are partially right. The more charming the personality and subtle the self-congratulation, the more effective is this approach. It is interesting to see in how many circles mere pretense is every bit as good as accomplishment. And, where is the man who has never given a better account of himself than he really deserves? Without a doubt, it is more fun to exaggerate my successes than to present myself as I am.

 

Pride starts with an exaggerated view of myself. It proceeds to a self-serving comparison with my neighbor and a devaluation of him, then to condemnation, contempt, and ridicule. It results in emotional and physical injury. Pride toward man is evil. Pride toward God is worse. All pride is sin against God.[1]

[1] Bowman, J. (1996). Pride. (D. Bowman, Ed.)Christianity Magazine, 13(8), 12.

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