Do you not find that pride is a bit of a dirty word? It’s a word that shifts the focus. We can argue about what’s right and wrong about what we do on the outside, but mention pride and you’re suddenly shining a torch into the dark, otherwise unexamined, cavities of my inner motivations.
And I wonder whether, in this day of Twitter profiles, Facebook statuses and blog posts, there’s a sense in which pride has also become legitimised, dressed up as standard social media behaviour.
As I think Carl Trueman said, with social media everything becomes very conscious. Everything is portrayal and image management. We’re all our own PR consultants.
And as is always the case, because this is the norm, I can use it as an excuse. It becomes a means of justifying my own unchecked behaviour. I tell myself, “well, I’m just doing what everyone else is doing”.
But the Christian worldview puts pride back on the table. And isn’t it a healthy addition? Don’t we need to have a category of pride? Don’t we want pride to be something we can address and call people up on?
Obviously here we come back to the human heart. It runs deep. And so I can’t presume to know for sure your particular motives, just because of what I’ve seen of your behaviour. And anyway, whoever said our motives were so black and white? In every good intention there is likely to be the not-so-silver-linings of pride, whether it is the rearing head of ‘didn’t-I-do-well-there’, or the subtle desperation of ‘please-like-me!’.
I was challenged on this as I read these powerful words of Richard Hooker, below. Around four hundred years old but piercing to the core. Let’s bring pride back to the table. There’s a wrong way of thinking about ourselves, a faulty estimation, “a vain opinion”:
Pride, is a vice which cleaves so fast onto the hearts of people, that if we were to strip ourselves of all faults one by one, we should undoubtedly find it the very last and hardest to put off.
We must go further … and enter somewhat deeper, before we can come to the closet wherein this poison lies. There is in the heart of every proud person, first, an error of understanding, a vain opinion whereby they think their own excellency, and by reason thereof their worthiness of estimation, regard, and honour, to be greater than in truth it is.
This makes them in all their affections accordingly to raise up themselves; and by their inward affections their outward acts are fashioned. Which if you list to have exemplified you may, either by calling to mind things spoken of them whom God himself has in Scripture especially noted with this fault; or by presenting to your secret cogitations that which you daily behold in the odious lives and manners of high-minded people.
Give me the hearts of all people humbled; and what is there that can overthrow or disturb the peace of the world? Wherein many things are caused of much evil; but pride of all.
– Richard Hooker, Sermon on Pride, from Habakkuk 2
And actually the Bible shows us that pride flows from missing God out of the picture. When you lose sight of the God revealed in the Scriptures (as opposed to any little god we make in our image), then sure enough everything else gets distorted. We raise ourselves up, as Hooker puts it. But when we open up God’s word, we get our hearts examined and we get our pride exposed.
But there’s a surprise too. As pride is blown out of the water, the Christian faith also shows us the humble dignity that has been bestowed upon me and you, by our Creator and Saviour. What could be more ugly than having an overinflated view of ourselves, in front of the God of the Universe. But what could be more beautiful than finding that this God has yet lavished upon us his love and made us his children.
Don’t just believe your own PR. It’s much better than that. But perhaps not in the way we expected.