He is obvious. He walks in the room with an air of confidence that can be seen with each step he takes. Everyone turns and acknowledges him, and he just smiles. He walks up to some people in a group talking and immediately takes over the conversation. Several more people gather around him as well, because they know he speaks with confidence. He doesn’t seem to care that he is the only one talking. Through the evening, he goes from one person to another initiating conversation, introducing himself to those he doesn’t know and just being the life of the party. He is self-assured, confident and knowledgeable. When he leaves, it seems the party just isn’t the same, and you hear one of the newcomers say “Man, who was that guy? He sure is arrogant!”
This is the picture we usually get when we talk about a prideful person. Someone who is so full of themselves that they spill out on everyone else. I know because that was me several years ago. Especially in business, I carried myself with such confidence it made people believe about anything I’d say. And it brought me success! I looked at it as a real positive in my life. But it became my downfall. Pride always will.
But pride goes much further than this picture. In this installment, I want to look at what pride really is – how can we define it properly to take in all the ways it manifests itself in people’s lives. Most people think the above example is the epitome of prideful behavior, but I can tell you it is vastly different than that.
Webster’s dictionary defines pride this way:
1. 1: the quality or state of being proud: as a : inordinate self-esteem : conceit b : a reasonable or justifiable self-respect c : delight or elation arising from some act, possession, or relationship 2. 2: proud or disdainful behavior or treatment : disdain
3. 3a : ostentatious display
Sounds about right, doesn’t it? Isn’t that how we see pride? This is the common understanding of what pride is. Going by this definition, it would be easy to see pride in ourselves and be able to deal with it, don’t you think? Maybe, although most people I know who fit that description rarely correct that behavior myself formerly included.
But pride is so much more than this. I want to give you a new definition of pride. One that expands the scope of the attribute into a much wider bunch of people. One that will help you understand better why God hates pride so much. And one that will make you really reach inside yourself and search to make sure there really is no pride in you.
My new definition of pride is an inordinate amount of attention to self: Self-love: Making everything about oneself.
On the surface, this might not look a whole lot different than the definition we already accept, but it is vastly different. Let me give you an example that will throw you a real loop. In Part 1 of this series, I mentioned that I spent 8 months at Pure Life Ministries, where everyone had a pride problem. I remember one particular person there named Brian. Brian was small in stature, skinny, balding head and glasses. But the thing that really sticks with me about Brian was that when he first got there, he was so quiet. Unbelievable quiet. He was so shy that if he wanted to talk to you, he would come up beside your bunk bed and stand there looking at you until you started up the conversation. Now I thought this guy was meek and shy. I mean, he seemed to have no self-confidence at all. What was he doing in a room full of loud, arrogant, prideful guys?
The fact of the matter is that Brian had just as much pride as any of the rest of us. Brian was so self-absorbed that he was afraid to speak up. He had been ridiculed and put down most of his life and he had just crawled inside himself and shut the door! He just kept to himself and cared for himself. No one and nothing else mattered. This is just as prideful as the loud arrogant ones, maybe even more. He was completely into himself, and that is what pride is – self is all that matters. What I want the way I want it.
Have I got you thinking now? We see that pride takes on many different forms, and I will talk more about that in the third part of this series next time. Between now and then, feel free to comment about what other types of people have a pride problem, and we will get a discussion going. There are a lot more, believe me. Once we have identified that, in Part 4 we will look at what God says about pride, and what the antidote is. It will be a fascinating journey.