Have you ever read something that left a profound impact on your life?
About a year ago I read a chapter called the ‘Great Sin’ in C.S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity. In just seven pages Lewis helped me to understand one of the largest issues within both the world and myself. I have never felt more convicted and yet so enlightened at the same time.
Lewis wrote; “there is one vice of which no man (or woman) in the world is free; which everyone in the world loathes when they see it in someone else; and of which hardly any people ever imagine they are guilty of themselves.”
Lewis suggests this vice is pride, of which he says “there is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it in ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.”
Pride is having a high opinion of oneself or of ones achievements. It derives from wanting to be viewed by others in a positive light. It often drives individuals to portray a certain image themselves and can result in a sense of superiority over others.
When most people think of pride, they think of someone who are egotistical, boastful or arrogant. People like Donald Trump or Kanye West or Connor McGregor (insert most fighters here). Although these are accurate examples, pride can be much more subtle than this. The reason why it’s so easy to identify their pride is that they seem to have no issue with showing it.
However here in New Zealand, there is a culture of tall poppy syndrome where we tear others down, especially when they claim to be good at it. Nerd, try-hard, teacher's pet and suck up are just a few of the examples that you would expect to hear growing up in this otherwise beautiful country of ours.
The appearance of being humble
So instead of being honest about what we are good at, we just play ourselves down in order to appear humble. Although this may seem like humility, the real reason we are not honest about what we are good at is actually because we are prideful. It is because we care so much about what others think of us that we try to appear humble in the first place.
Rather, as Lewis points out, true “humility is not thinking less of yourself, but rather thinking of yourself less.”
This is incredibly difficult to do in a world that constantly tells us that image is everything. We are bombarded by advertisements that reinforce that we are defined by how we look, what we wear, what we own and more, rather than finding our worth in God.
Pride can cause us to fall into an endless cycle of consumerism and performance because it makes us compare ourselves to others around us.
As Lewis clarifies; “We think that people are proud of being rich or clever or good looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, cleverer, better looking than others. If everyone else became equally as rich, clever or good looking, there would be nothing to be proud about. It is comparison that makes you proud, the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of comparison is gone, so does our pride.”
Gets in the way
The greatest problem we run into with the comparison is that its gets in the way of us loving others. When we are so busy chasing the things of this world so that we can climb our own imaginary ladders of success, we can end up failing to care for those who God puts right in front of us.
Pride diminishes love, contentment and relationships. But worst of all it gets in the way of us following God’s will.
Over the past year I have been trying to eliminate pride from my life. And I have found it by far the most difficult sin to deal with yet. This is because pride is not something we do, but rather the reason why we do it. It’s not an action that we can stop, but rather a way of thinking we have to unlearn.
The only way that we can truly deal with our pride is to stop focusing on our own image and on what others think of us and start caring more about what God thinks and wants. To stop comparing ourselves with others and rather think about how we can love them instead.
Ethan grew up in Mt Roskill, Auckland. While finishing a degree in applied theology from Carey Baptist College, he moved slightly east and began working as pastor at Eastview Baptist Church, where he has been for three years. He loves getting out in nature, having a laugh and having deep conversations about life and faith.