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Thoughts on life by Teri McCarthy

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Pride and Prejudice

Posted by admin in March 16th, 2010
Published in obedience

I was asked recently to speak on pride at Sterling College’s chapel service. The first thought in my head was, “I’d be really good at that.” The second thought, “I hope the students think I’m the best chapel speaker ever!”

Wow. Pride, at least in my life, is that insidious. Pride’s disgusting. I’m disgusting.

Christianity is an upside down religion—especially for this old world. Our Founder, you know Jesus, He was very much a man of opposites—opposite of everything we know and instinctively understand about human nature. That Jesus—He’s a hard act to follow.

Jesus said, “Wanna be the leader? Then you gotta be a servant: wash folks’ feet, do for others, take the worst seat in the house; serve.

“Want to be first? Then you gotta be last.

“Want to be greatest in the Kingdom? Become like a little child.”

Think about James’ and John’s exposure of the human nature in their request to Jesus, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask…Arrange it so that we will be awarded the highest places of honor in your glory—one of us at your right, the other at your left.”

Jesus replied back to them, “You have no idea what you’re asking…you’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for many…(Mark 10).”

Man everyone got so ticked off when they heard the brothers’ request! “Let us sit on the right and the left.”

Jesus’ way isn’t like that. Jesus’ way is against everything we know about self-preservation and survival of the fittest.

Wanna live? Gotta die.
Wanna get? Stop it. Give. It is better to give than receive.

(Huuuhhh? A little Scooby Doo action there!)

Good thing He provides us with the Holy Spirit Helper otherwise we just couldn’t do it on our own. Human nature is incapable of living this upside down Gospel.

I mean everything Jesus preached went against our natural instincts: domination by the smartest; elevation of the best among us; winners versus losers. What happened? Could God’s world and our world truly be any more opposite, or further polarized?

God says, “I will send my Son to conquer sin and death…and I think it would be great if He came to mankind as a baby, born into poverty and conceived in a way that others will judge His mother as immoral.” Really?

Yeah. Not the plan I would have come up with. I think I would have brought Him into mankind as an Arnold Schwarzenegger with a smarty pants Albert Einstein brain.

Look at beauty, strength, leadership, love, war, crimes, relationships, forgiveness…Jesus’ responses to these social topics are nothing short of bizarre.

Right? Turn the other cheek, love your enemies, great love dies for a brother, forgive debts, it’s what is in the heart that counts.

Back in the 1980s the Powers That Be decided that self-esteem was the most important attribute a person could have. A whole generation has been told “You’re the greatest; you’re the smartest; you’re the best! You’re special and by golly everyone knows it! Let’s everyone win a trophy. Let’s everyone receive a ribbon. Just showing up is enough.”

Anyone remember that scene in the Pixar animated movie The Incredibles? “If everyone is special, then no one really is.”

Self-esteem is deadly. It’s costly. Ten years ago a psychologist and a theologian (married couple Joanna and Alister McGrath) cited a study on self-esteem in their book Self-Esteem: The Cross and Christian Confidence. The study was done by Dr. Roy Baumeister who wanted to answer the question, “Who has the highest self-esteem in the US?” The results of his study of 4,000 men were…well…stupefying.

Baumeister’s study showed that men in our nation with the lowest self-esteem were the CEOs and presidents of major Fortune 500 corporations. These men were in constant fear that someone better would come along, so they worked especially hard and were driven, always looking over their shoulders to see who was better than they to do the job.

The men with the highest self-esteem were death-row prisoners who through violent crimes had taken lives (interestingly, most of the inmates were raised by single moms and told all of their lives that they were special). The high self-esteem found in the inmates had actually given them the confidence to take a human life. The McGrath’s conclusion from the study is that any time people focus their eyes on themselves problems in society arise. The McGrath’s created a new term, “Christ-esteem” defining that a healthy person focuses on Christ and what He has done in us and through us. Good word.

Self-esteem can be a real conduit for pride. (And let me note here that self-consciousness is just the other side of the coin. I mean whether you think others think you’re great or if you think others think you’re terrible—you’re doing basically the same thing. Why would I even imagine people are thinking of me at all? At least that’s what my Mom told me).

And pride, like self-esteem, is deadly too. Pride is what is wrong with humanity. Most sins are pride-based:

Greed – I want what you have because I am even more deserving than you.

Lust – I want what I want because I deserve it and I deserve to feel good.

Murder – I have the right to take another’s life for whatever reason I want.

When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, you know, The Big Fall, they were operating out of pride. “I want and deserve to be as smart as God.”

When Cain killed his brother Abel, he was operating out of pride, “God likes Abel’s sacrifice better than mine! I wanted to be best; I wanted to be favored; I wanted to be #1! Gotta kill Abel.”

All basic sin is derived from pride which in its purest form is an absolute void of love and an absolute focus on oneself.

I want to be the expert.
I want to be the smartest student.
I want to answer this question, or better yet, I want to ask a question that makes the entire class think I’m the smartest—I’m the best!
I want to be the most popular girl.
I want to be the most desired guy.
I want others to admire me.
I want others to acknowledge me.
I want…I want…I want…

All of these things feed my pride and pride is a hungry monster that is never satisfied.

Pride. Ugh. It’s horrible. It’s a little sneaky snake in the sneaky snake grass.

Anyone play Scrabble online? I do. I play Scrabble. Yeah, crazy wild Scrabble.

Once I had a gal online and I could tell that English wasn’t her mother tongue—you know it was her second language. We were playing and she played words like “end” and “not” and “good.” I knew by the second or third play she wasn’t an experienced Scrabble player nor a native English speaker. I felt the Holy Spirit quicken me, “Give her a break. Don’t go crazy on her.” Honestly, I felt the Holy Spirit’s prompting to calm down and take it easy. No need to go at her with both barrels loaded. But this pride and competition thing and wanting to be #1 took control over me and I started working very hard to put on the board only words that would rake in the points. Finally when I was more than 100 points ahead, she quit. She forfeited the game. Gone. What had I given to that girl in that moment in time? I wonder what her frame of mind was when she quit and how it might have been different if I had listened to the Holy Spirit.

And I hated myself for being such a jerk. Did I bring life to that girl or discouragement? Pride takes others’ lives—their joys, their hopes, their husbands or wives, their happiness, their rankings, their senses of well being.

And through that failure on my part I learned a valuable lesson about pride. Perhaps a theological lesson: The opposite of pride isn’t humility…it’s love.

Look at the definition of love according to Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:
I Corinthians 13:1-7, “The Way of Love”

“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, ‘Jump,’ and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always ‘me first,’
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel.

But love takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.”

You know, love never fails.

In John 5, Jesus, the embodiment of love said this, “I’m not interested in crowd approval. And do you know why? Because I know you and your crowds. I know that love, especially God’s love, is not on your working agenda. I came with the authority of my Father, and you either dismiss me or avoid me. If another came, acting self-important, you would welcome him with open arms. How do you expect to get anywhere with God when you spend all your time jockeying for position with each other, ranking your rivals and ignoring God?”

Pride is belief in one’s own abilities; it is vanity and it is a result of me forgetting God’s grace and mercy in my own life.

It manifests itself in speaking down to others and using language purposefully to sound knowledgeable; it is a type of elitism.

Do I do this with my parents? Am I trying to show siblings and grandparents how smart I am? Do I need to be first in line? Do I need to be recognized? Do I check my blog stats regularly, obsessively? Do I take conversations hostage so that I may talk about myself and my accomplishments? Do I prefer others or do I dominate? Sadly, those questions come from my own battle with pride.

As a follower of Christ it is wrong for me to be arrogant, conceited, self-important, snooty, unfriendly, stuck-up, puffed-up, and overconfident.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. And doesn’t the Bible tell us that love covers a multitude of sin? Yup. It does.

So how do I kill pride in my life? How do I counteract this problem? Well first of all I can’t do it on my own. I have to have the Holy Spirit’s work in my life. And I have to start living what Jesus taught. I need to value others more than myself. I have to die to myself. I have to lay my pride on the altar daily and ask for Jesus to heal my spirit man. And He does that by filling me with His love—His love for me that pours out and becomes love for others. Pride is the crown I wear on my head when I’m ruling my own life. Love is the crown on Jesus’ head when He is ruling my life. Gone is self-preservation, self-exultation, selfish motives and hopefully in self’s place is Christ and pride loses another day. But it’s daily, sometimes moment by moment because as Daniel Defoe once said, “Pride is the president of hell” and for me it’s a tough government to overthrow. Peace.

3 users Responded In This Post

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363. melinda sue said,
March 18th, 2010 at 10:31 am

beautiful. wonderfully written. powerfully spoken right to my heart.

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364. Rebekah said,
March 19th, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Hubby and I are around a lot of the entertainers that you would think have it all. Even their pride exudes this. They have money, fame and a hot little number on their arm…but nothing. They are the most miserable people to be around.
Heck, I know when I let pride rule my life, I was miserable to be around. I love the God that will knock your legs out from under you and bring you back where you belong. But still, what a daily battle for me! I was so glad to come upon your post/article. Very well written. Thank you!

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367. deb said,
March 27th, 2010 at 6:49 pm

I love playing scrabble online…

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