For the past couple of weeks, I have been thinking a lot about the sin of pride and how it has manifested itself in my life. I’ve been pondering the damaging effects of pride in various areas of my life. And while it’s difficult to be honest in confessing some of my weaknesses in a blog like this, I suppose I just need to “swallow my pride” :-) and share some ways pride has hurt me:
- Minimizing others’ contributions to make my contributions seem more important. I sometimes find myself doing this with those that I love most, like my wife Robin. I think so much about my own activites at work and church that I tend to minimize her important contribution in managing our household and raising our children. Pride makes me think my contribution is better than hers, which it isn’t. It’s just different.
- Mentally tearing down others to build myself up, especially those whose successes make me envious. I have a couple of friends that have been very successful, and my pride has allowed me to compare my success to theirs. When I come up short, pride has led me to envy, which is certainly an un-Christlike feeling.
- Feeling that my viewpoint and way of doing things is best, therefore if others see things or do things differently, it is inferior. This manifestation of pride causes me to lose out on new ideas and new perspectives that have significant value. It also results in a lack of tolerance which can damage relationships.
- Desiring the praise of the world and the glory of men; craving the approbation of others and a feeling of importance for my own sake.
President Uchtdorf of the First Presidency of the LDS Church recently gave a very powerful talk on this subject. I’d like to quote him (in italics) and then make a few comments. He said:
“Pride is sinful because it breeds hatred or hostility and places us in opposition to God and our fellowmen. At its core, pride is a sin of comparison, for though it usually begins with ‘Look how wonderful I am and what great things I have done,’ it always seems to end with ‘Therefore, I am better than you.’ When our hearts are filled with pride, we commit a grave sin, for we violate the two great commandments. Instead of worshipping God and loving our neighbor, we reveal the real object of our worship and love—the image we see in the mirror. Pride is the great sin of self-elevation.”
So what’s so bad about elevating ourselves? Doesn’t our culture prize those who excel and those who work hard to be successful? The problem is that when I seek to elevate myself, I inherently diminish others and that creates enmity. More damaging is the fact that when I give in to pride, I become the object of my love and worship; I care more about myself and my own interests than I care about loving God and serving my fellowman. It’s a natural human tendency to seek after our own happiness; however, I believe the great irony is that only when I seek for others’ happiness have I truly found my own.
President Uchtdorf goes on: “For others, pride turns to envy: they look bitterly at those who have better positions, more talents, or greater possessions than they do. They seek to hurt, diminish, and tear down others in a misguided and unworthy attempt at self-elevation. When those they envy stumble or suffer, they secretly cheer.”
I don’t like feeling envious, do you? It’s a nasty feeling. It creates in me a sense of injustice and sometimes even bitterness. And when I feel envious, I seek to diminish the accomplishments of others. I sometimes secretly feel that they don’t deserve what they have or that their success is because of luck (while always crediting my own success to my own hard work and drive).
What’s the antidote to envy brought on by pride? For me, it’s gratitude. I believe that recognizing God’s hand in my life and in the lives of others is crucial. I recently started counting my blessings and trying hard to be more genuinely happy for those whose successes I envied. And my heart changed for the better.
President Uchtdorf says: “We can be grateful for our health, wealth, possessions, or positions, but when we begin to inhale it—when we become obsessed with our status; when we focus on our own importance, power, or reputation; when we dwell upon our public image and believe our own press clippings—that’s when the trouble begins; that’s when pride begins to corrupt.”
Isn’t this true? The minute I start feeling like my own genius and efforts have made me better than others, I begin to “inhale” and to “believe my own press clippings.” Pride really can corrupt people if they are not careful and self-aware. What’s the best way to overcome pride and envy in addition to developing gratitude? Again, to President Uchtdorf:
“It is almost impossible to be lifted up in pride when our hearts are filled with charity. ‘No one can assist in this work except he shall be humble and full of love (D&C 12:8).’ When we see the world around us through the lens of the pure love of Christ, we begin to understand humility.”
I love that. Filling my heart with charity will cast out of prideful feelings. Cultivating the pure love of Christ is so fundamental to overcoming sinful pride. Pure love and enmity cannot co-exist.
Finally, President Uchtdorf sums up what humility really is by saying: “Some suppose that humility is about beating ourselves up. Humility does not mean convincing ourselves that we are worthless, meaningless, or of little value. Nor does it mean denying or withholding the talents God has given us. We don’t discover humility by thinking less of ourselves; we discover humility by thinking less about ourselves. It comes as we go about our work with an attitude of serving God and our fellowman.”
Isn’t that great? I don’t have to think poorly of myself to be humble. Indeed, I am a child of God with divine potential, and I can and should feel great about that. God loves me. He loves you. So we should love ourselves. We just need to remember the source of our strength is Him, and not us. And as we think less ABOUT ourselves and more about serving others, we’ll find true humility and pure love.
To read President Uchtdorf’s full text, go to http://new.lds.org/general-conference/2010/10/pride-and-the-priesthood?lang=eng#22