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Prison of Pride

“In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that—and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison—you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

C.S. Lewis, one of the premier Christian authors of all time, has said some weighty things about the topic of pride. He went so far as to say “…it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.” (Mere Christianity).

I have written about humility in an earlier article, which essentially is the opposite of pride. I shared my pursuit of humility and nodded toward the struggle against pride in my heart. Here, I admit my battle with pride in a more vulnerable way as an inner attitude that can keep me frozen in my spiritual development.

Many sermons and books have covered this topic. What can I possibly add? Just the examination and confession of my own pride and my process to move toward the Christlike humility I desire to have. First, I look carefully at the humility of Christ and how he evidenced that quality. I see the opposite of who I most naturally am. How do I get from my starting point to where he is? My pride has the potential to overtake my soul! Eradicate it?! It’s been so pervasive that I remember how it has ruined entire days around other people where I felt slighted or misunderstood or unappreciated. My thoughts could become consumed with how I was not treated “right”, rather than having a heart toward others.

Contrast that with Christ who was snubbed by the elite Jewish leaders of his day, and then misunderstood by the masses who received him with palm branches as he rode the donkey into Jerusalem, but then crucified him days later. He was unappreciated by those He came to save, but he remained humble. He focused on what was best for them and not on vindicating himself. He came to save the world, which meant he exhibited enough humility to take on the punishment of the entire world’s sin when he himself lived a perfect life. I’m so prideful that I could not bear to take on the rightly deserved punishment for even one person.

I once knew a young pastor whose best friend hit and killed a child while driving and ran from the scene. His friend went so far as to bury the truck he was driving since he had access to heavy equipment that could do the job. He was found out and sentenced to prison. This pastor loved his non-Christian friend so much that he went before the judge and asked to take his place in serving his sentence. He thought his friend could not handle the difficulties of prison and offered to be a substitutionary prisoner for him. He also longed for his friend to understand the sacrifice of Christ on behalf of sinners, and I believe he thought this might help him grasp the concept and importance of salvation.

I have never heard of anyone serving a sentence for someone else like a pinch hitter. The substitution was ultimately rejected by the judge, but it was quite the sacrificial proposition, requiring a great deal of love and humility. I don’t think my pride would ever be overcome by such love, not even for my children or grandchildren. I can’t imagine offering to take the punishment for such an action. Yet, that’s only a tiny fraction of what Christ did for us, and that was for eternal justice, not for temporal justice.

I’m assuming I’m not the only one who deals with pride since it’s addressed many times in the Bible. So how DO we deal with pride? It’s an internal process that requires introspection. We must be able to “see” it to deal with it. We have to hold ourselves up to the light of scripture, compare ourselves to Christ, and see what we see—a stark contrast.

A friend who is one of the most pride-free people I’ve ever met once told me with great gentleness that I was developing a pattern of too-willingly receiving a “wound”. When someone speaks truth to you in love, that arrow goes to the bullseye and plunks itself there for you to stare at. She was so right. I did not yank the arrow out in defensiveness but left it there to fully see its mark. It landed on the central issue…pride.

Just minutes ago, my husband called me while I was in the process of writing this article and as he closed our conversation he simply said, “I hope you have a productive day”. My first inner response was to think, “Oh, so I MUST have a productive day, huh?” and, “Do you think I’m not trying to be productive?” Thankfully I didn’t say those things and I looked back at that proverbial arrow from my friend targeting what is unpleasantly true about me. It reminded me that I was falling into the old habit of looking for a wound so that I could be offended. My pride wanted me to have a problem with his statement rather than seeing a sincere wish for me to find meaning in my day, something I certainly want for each day that I live.

I’m training myself, with God’s help, to not have pride be my go-to response, imprisoning me in its walls. The only way I can do that is to purposely be on the lookout for all the variations in which pride creeps around in my heart, the way it entices me to ‘hear’ comments or interpret conversations or the actions of others. I now look to identify and surrender it to God as soon as I can, in confession and repentance. It may be a lifelong process. The bars of my pride prison are gone because of my freedom from sin that Christ has given me. I can choose to leave, with his help. Unfortunately, I sometimes just walk in there and stand around as if I’m still chained inside, like I want to visit pride for some reason. One day I hope to never return.

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