Pride: the Great Deceiver
(RBC Ministries, 2/3/05)
I’ve been thinking about a great impostor—one so clever that he deceived even the devil himself.
This master of illusion has turned angels into demons, kings into animals, pastors into predators, and sheep into wolves.
While the elusive deceiver is not a person, it overcomes that problem by borrowing personality from its victims. With no shame, it clothes itself in the thoughts, emotions, and wills of those whose trust it betrays.
What I find troubling is that without realizing it I’ve walked, laughed, and cried with this impostor. I’m learning that he is no fool. He flatters us. He defers to us. He encourages us to develop an exaggerated opinion of our own importance, while at the same time letting us think negative and self-destructive thoughts about ourselves.
This deceiver of deceivers is pride. He has hats for every occasion and masks for every emotion. He has a different voice for every decision. Sometimes he struts—sometimes he limps.
See if you recognize this great impostor in his own gallery of disguises. See if you agree that what makes “The Prince of Pride” so difficult to track is that he can swagger with self-importance one minute while hiding behind the illusion of humility the next.
Self-defeating Pride The pride that keeps us from doing better when we are doing well can also keep us from changing when we are in trouble. On a good day, we don’t feel a need to change. When trouble comes, we don’t want people to think we’re changing our ways just because we’re in trouble.
Wounded Pride The pride that prompts us to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think can also fill us with self-contempt when we don’t live up to our own expectations.
Fearful Pride The ego that causes us to be overly competitive on some occasions can also keep us from trying at all in other situations. Sometimes pride makes us willing to win at the expense of others. Sometimes it causes us to avoid the embarrassment of possible failure.
Uninhibited Pride The pride that causes us to be meticulous with our appearance can also cause us not to care what others think of us.
Self-deceiving Pride The pride that causes us to call attention to other people’s mistakes can lead us to believe we don’t have any reason to be critical of ourselves.
Procrastinating Pride The arrogance that causes us to think we can change anytime we want can keep us from ever changing at all.
Uncaring Pride The conceit that allows us to be preoccupied with our own problems can also help us to be oblivious to the pain of others.
Sulking Pride The pride that keeps us from asking others for help can also cause us to sulk when others are not “there for us.”
Self-introducing Pride Sometimes to admit pride seems fatal. At other times, saying that we know we are proud is a way of saying we think we have something to be proud about.
Self-berating Pride The pride that keeps us from admitting we’re wrong can also lead to self-berating behavior that helps us avoid being corrected by others.
Pious Pride The pride that causes us to be prayerless in our personal life can also prompt us to pray with crowd-pleasing eloquence in public settings.
Overly-talkative Pride The survival instinct that prompts us to be silent about what is really happening in us can also cause us to dominate conversations and relationships when we don’t want others asking questions.
Slacker Pride The self-sufficiency that drives workaholics to try to make themselves indispensable can also cause a lazy person to assume that he can be a slacker without consequences.
Tearful Pride The conceit that causes us to disregard the feelings of others can also cause us to use tears to play on the emotions of others when we want something.
Quiet Pride The self-interest that causes us to parade our success can also prompt us not to admit our failures.
Contrite Pride The self-absorption that allows us to protect ourselves at others’ expense can also prompt us to demand forgiveness when we’ve been forced to confess.
Pride isn’t just an excessive opinion of ourselves that acts at the expense of others. Ironically, pride is the ultimate form of self-delusion. If it can’t hit us with a right, it will come at us from the left. If our northern front is strong, it will hit us from the south. If we’re reinforced on the ground, it will attack us from the air.
At least one lesson surfaces. When we understand the strategies of pride that feed on our own human nature, we have that many reasons to get on our knees. When we live unaware of pride’s delusions, we have knees that won’t bend.
Healthy humility might sound like a bitter pill. But taking the attitude of Christ is an antidote for self-destruction. While pride is a sure way to create problems for ourselves, the opposite of pride leaves no regrets. God Himself becomes our satisfaction. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
Father, please forgive us for proudly thinking that our interests are more urgent than Your interests, and that our pain is more important than the pain of others. In our clearer moments we realize we have no higher calling than to be “living sacrifices” who think no more and no less of ourselves than You want us to think (Romans 12:1-3).