Saturday, April 28, 2012

Who's Proud?

I have been stewing over the concepts of pride and humility.  Both are rather slippery.

What is pride?  My knee-jerk mental picture is an arrogant, haughty person who views himself as better (or smarter, or holier, or more important...) than others.  There is certainly obvious pride, but the most dangerous is subtle or disguised pride.

At its core, pride is a heart centered on self. The proud heart says, "Me first, God."

By this definition, a person who is far from haughty can also be proud.  Insecurity and self-pity are actually symptoms of pride. What a perfect tool pride is for the enemy.  If he can't make us feel superior to others, he can get us to feel sorry for ourselves about it!  Either way, pride reigns.

In contrast, humility is the result of a God-centered heart.  The best definition I've heard is that a humble person doesn't think less of himself; he thinks of himself less often.  The Catch-22 about humility is that the moment we realize we are acting humbly, we are at risk of losing that humility.

As slippery as these qualities are, the Bible is abundantly clear about which heart God prefers.  He opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.  Haughty eyes are at the top of the list of things God detests.

God's preference for humility resonates even within our own flawed hearts.

Be honest; don't proud people offend you? They do me.

The men and women I most admire are the ones who are the most humble. Even in our fallen and fleshly state, we see the divine in humility and the disgusting in pride.

Why then, if we experience such admiration for humility in others, does it seem such a distasteful thing to strive for in ourselves?

We respect the lowly, yet resist being thought lowly in the opinion of others.

We cry out for attention, esteem and praise, even as we marvel over the beauty of a soul that does not seek recognition.

During the past several years in many different situations, I have watched pride destroy marriages, families, businesses, security, peace, and fellowship.  I have grieved as people whose craving for respect or status or control or stuff proved more dear to them than God's fellowship and blessing.  I've witnessed devastated people standing in the rubble of opportunities or relationships ruined by pride--yet still clinging desperately to the very idol that caused the destruction.

It is painful to watch--even worse to be among those wounded by it.

So often in the past months I have been tempted to beg God to bring down the proud.

Before the prayer can ever pass my lips, this thought enters my mind:

"What if that's YOU?"

Because I am just a likely to be acting in pride.  It's so easy to spot in others, so hard to recognize in ourselves.

Over the past months I have felt a wide array of painful emotions brought on by a great disappointment.  I have struggled to resist a root of bitterness that would to take hold in my heart and choke out love.

The very emotions and sins I wrestle with reveal a heart that is focused primarily on ME.

A heart that is proud.

Do I really want God to bring down the proud?

Because I would definitely be among those going down.

No, instead, I want to beg God to keep constantly before me an awareness of His grace to me.

I don't deserve anything, and He gave everything.

 I don't want God to bring down the proud, I want Him to bring down the pride.

Create in me a clean heart, O God.  Expose any pride to which I am blind before it destroys.  Reveal truth not to expose fraud before the world, but to show your child that she is resisting You and missing out on Your best.  Draw me broken and repentant before You--not making excuses, not glossing over, not placing blame--but TRULY repentant.  Show me how despicable my pride is, so that I can cry out in repentance and receive Grace.

Father, break me to humble me so that I can experience the beauty of Your grace and the freedom to show grace to others. 


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