Please keep reading. One of the ugliest truths about myself that I have had to come to terms with is hiding in the back half of this post’s title. My head and heart are almost constantly overestimating my own worth. It has always been this way. Always. It began in the Garden of Eden. It is the sure bet of the serpent as he asked a simple question, “Hath God said…?” He knew the answer. He knew they knew the answer. He wasn’t really even asking a question. He was betting on the fact that Adam & Eve thought they were equal to or better than God himself. He was right… they did. And, in moments, so do I. But it usually manifests itself in other ways than me v. God.
Most of my “I think I’m better than you” moments happen related to my fellow-humans. It shows up in election years and Black History Month and almost any topic where I feel more enlightened, more evolved, or just plain more right than you. I can’t think of a time when I feel this way about people who happen to share my opinion. My struggle with myself and my heart is always aimed at those who think differently than me.
What help does the Scripture offer to this struggle?
1. I have it backwards.
But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.
2. I have misdefined all the terms.
Haughtiness goes before destruction; humility precedes honor.
Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.
What to do? In practical terms and in my own practice, I have borrowed from the wisdom of Alcoholics Anonymous. This approach may not be helpful to you, but I see my own pride and overestimation as very similar to the addict’s plight. So read these and see if they are not helpful to you as you consider a healthy approach to self. Just change out “alcohol” for “pride”.
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
No matter your addiction – and that’s what pride is – this is healthy re-orientation!