PRIDE – GOOD, BAD, OR UGLY?

In both the Old and New Testament the Bible warns about the danger of pride. The book of Proverbs has much to say about pride, and the best known verse is probably Proverbs 16:18 that declares “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” In Proverbs 8:13 wisdom personified lets us know “I hate pride and arrogance.”

A lesser known Old Testament verse that has always grabbed my attention is Obadiah 3a where God tells Edom, “The pride of your heart has deceived you.” When I read that I cannot help but think that Edom was not the last to be deceived by a prideful heart.

There are not as many references to pride in the New Testament, but both James 4:6  and I Peter 5:5 quote Proverbs 3:34, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” I John 2:16 notes the pride of life, along with the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes, “comes not from the Father but from the world.”

It’s obvious that there is a kind of pride that is bad; and not just bad, but sinful. Historically Christianity has put pride first in the list of “the seven deadly sins.”

There is a kind of pride that is bad, but most of us recognize that there is also a good kind of pride. In Romans 11:13 the Apostle Paul writes “I take pride in my ministry.” And in II Corinthians 5:12 he tells his readers he is giving them “an opportunity to take pride in us.” Two chapters later in 7:4 he affirms them with “I take great pride in you.” In Galatians 6:4 Paul instructs, “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.”

Pride is not always self-centered and boastful. One writer observes, “In a good sense it means having a feeling of self-respect. People can be satisfied with their achievements. They can be proud of something good that they have done.”

There is also a good pride we have in others. I take Proverbs 27:2 seriously: “Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.” I’m 68 years old and still appreciate it when someone tells me “I’m proud of you.” And is there any parent or grandparent reading this who has not taken pride in their child or grandchild? Tell them you are proud of them, but don’t overdo it!

In thinking about this subject I was impressed by an article in Psychology Today by Leon F. Seltzer entitled “8 Crucial Differences between Healthy and Unhealthy Pride.” Here are a few selected paraphrased nuggets that made sense to me:

Healthy pride is about self-confidence and represents a positive notion of self-worth.

Healthy pride is not about bragging and boasting.

Healthy pride has nothing to do with comparing oneself to others.

Those with healthy pride motivate and inspire others.

Healthy pride isn’t egocentric. And that’s why those with such pride can take pride not just in their own accomplishments, but in those of others as well.

So there is a bad kind of pride and a good kind of pride – but I also want to suggest there is an ugly kind of pride that goes beyond bad pride. Ugly pride not only brags and boasts about oneself, it also demeans and devalues others. Ugly pride displays an air of condescending superiority towards others.

In his “Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector” in Luke 18:9-14 Jesus painted a picture of ugly pride. Luke’s introduction sets the stage by noting Jesus’ audience: “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable.” You may want to read or reread Jesus’ powerful story.

I conclude by encouraging you to have good pride, guard against bad pride, and make every effort to never engage in ugly pride.

Feel free to leave a comment below and/or share this post on Facebook or other social media.

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