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It was 1961, Arnold Palmer had two Masters golf championships under his belt and was on the verge to win his third. He was one stroke ahead of the competition and just hit an excellent shot that would set him up for an easy victory. Walking towards his ball, he passed an old friend who waved him over: His friend smiled, reached out his hand and said, “Congratulations,” Palmer shook his hand assured that he would not disappoint. Palmer confidently swung at the ball but sailed the ball right into the sand trap. A bad hit and a missed putt later, Palmer had lost the Masters. Later in his career, Palmer was asked to recall this event and here’s what he had to say: “As soon as I shook his hand, I knew I had lost my focus.”
When pride is a part of the equation, we see ourselves as greater than we are.
Arnold Palmer is considered the king of golf and one of the greatest players of all time. Over the scope of his incredible career, he won 62 PGA Tours, 4 Masters, 3 PGA Championships, and multitudes of achievements and awards. One might think, “How could Palmer, in the height of his prime, lose the Masters so easily?” It was due to one factor: Pride. He shifted his focus from the game onto himself, and at that moment, it was all over. Pride takes root in all of us in different ways. For some, it’s overconfidence in talents or abilities, for others self-supremacy over peers, or the need to always be right. Regardless of its form, pride is a deadly sin that can easily go undetected in our lives. A simple pat on our back or a “good job” can slowly evolve into so much more. The following are just a few dangers pride can produce in our lives.
Danger #1: Pride Develops an Unrealistic View of Ourselves
When pride is a part of the equation, we see ourselves as greater than we are. We look at our abilities and achievements in a glorified light that places us on a pedestal above everyone else. We become increasingly obsessed with success and being the best.
The Apostle Paul speaks to this in Romans 12:3, “Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.” Pride causes us to assess our lives by the standard of our accomplishments rather than our God given identity. When pride flourishes, every victory whether big or small is attributed to our greatness. Rather than giving praise to God for the blessings, He is bringing; we redirect our worship to ourselves.
Danger #2: Pride Detaches Us from Community
Author Ryan Holiday writes in his book Ego is the Enemy, “If ego is the voice that tells us we’re better than we really are, we can say ego inhibits true success by preventing a direct and honest connection to the world around us.”
Pride causes us to assess our lives by the standard of our accomplishments rather than our God given identity.
Pride (or as Holiday puts it, “ego”) severs us from God’s design to live in relationship with others. We are pushed into isolation by our self-confidence believing the lie that life is better alone.
Life becomes a solo mission rather than a team effort, and people are diminished to obstacles that hinder our progress instead of valued relationship necessary for growth. A rivalry with dependence begins as we view any assistance as weakness leading to our lives pointing increasingly inward rather than being outwardly focused. We get so caught up looking in the mirror at ourselves that we forget to look out the window to see the world around us.
Danger #3: Pride Creates a Critical Spirit
Unattended pride starts to create a jaded outlook on life that zeroes in on the negatives rather than the positives. We are quick to judge others for their flaws while neglecting the fact that we are also flawed. Our lives start to become permeated by competition rather than unity. Compassion starts to get replaced with self-righteousness as we look down on others’ faults and instead boast about our successes. Jesus addressed this issue in his Sermon on the Mount, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” Rather than continually pointing out the deficiencies in those around us we need to be honest about our imperfections.
Danger #4: Pride Takes Life into Our Own Hands
Perhaps the most dangerous element of pride is that it tells God, “I got this.” Even though we have divine direction laid out for us, we choose to go down our own path wandering aimlessly in the dark determined that we are going the right way. Whatever path we choose becomes increasingly ominous because Scripture is clear, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18 ESV).
When we stay fixated on our way, then we lose sight of what God wants to do in us and through us.
We become a stubborn driver who refuses to stop for directions because we are dead set that we know where we’re going. Not only are we persuaded that our way is the right way, but we are offended that God does not agree with us. An opposition begins to emerge as we keep blazing down the trail that leads to a cliff while God is telling us to turn every step of the way. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6b ESV). When we stay fixated on our way, then we lose sight of what God wants to do in us and through us.
Our Defense Against Pride: Humility
Pride is an elusive enemy. It will always remain no matter how hard we try to kill it. That makes it incredibly important to be putting up our defense constantly. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24 ESV). Humility is a routine that needs to be implemented into our hearts so that God can use our full potential. When we surrender our wants, needs, and desires to our Father, then He can do what we would never be able to accomplish on our own.
Pride focuses on lifting ourselves up, but humility recognizes only God can truly lift us up.
Often humility can be seen as self-deprecating, but that is not the case. Author C.S. Lewis writes, “true humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less.” Humility redirects our view from ourselves to those around us and towards God. As we set our sights on God’s people and doing the work of His kingdom, a shift takes place in our hearts. We start to see ourselves in an honest light, we begin to desire community, and we become open to the direction that God has for us.
Joy and enthusiasm start to overwhelm our hearts as we finally allow God to do the incredible works that He has wanted to do all along. Scripture issues this call to us: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” (1 Peter 5:6 ESV). Pride focuses on lifting ourselves up, but humility recognizes only God can truly lift us up, and as we practice humility day in and day out, we can be confident that God is going to do remarkably more than we could accomplish on our own.