I’m sharing a series of “letters” originally written by Vince Miller. I regard Vince as a trusted resource for wisdom and insight on faith and family especially as it pertains to men and fathers. His bio is at the bottom of the post. Look him up. What follows is his work entirely. Vince communicates the messages I want my son to hear in a far more clear and concise way than I could ever say. Consider using these as conversation starters. I encourage you to share these letters with the important men in your life.
Pride is more than the first of the seven deadly sins; it is itself the essence of all sin.— John StotT
He must increase, but I must decrease. — John the Baptizer, in John 3:30
Your Pride is Always Going to Be a Problem
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. — Proverbs 16:18
Pride is one of man’s most notable challenges. As men, we are always flirting with either excessive self-esteem or unnecessary self-condemnation. Pride, called by a variety of words—avarice, arrogance, vanity, conceit, self-love, and hubris—is as insidious as everyone its names suggests. It has both internal and external manifestations. Internal manifestations range from self-condemnation, self-pity, to self-degradation. External forms range from self-exalting, self-promoting, and self-justification, and we as men need a keen awareness of the forms these take in our lives. While I would tell you there is nothing wrong with appropriate levels of self-satisfaction or self-disappointment, extremes of either of these can be destructive, as the proverbial writer notes above. Most often, this happens when we allow our successes or failures to define and shape us as men.
So, here are a few pointers to keep pride at arm’s length in your life.
Watch the Indicators of Pride
In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride.—Benjamin Franklin
Because pride is so insidious, it attacks in a variety of ways, but there are indicators we can keep our eyes on before pride becomes fully mature in our lives. Here are a few things over which I would keep watch.
Sometimes, we need to protect ourselves. But protecting ourselves from being vulnerable, transparent, and authentic with trusted people results in projecting a false sense of self. When you encounter insecurity—or a lack of confidence in something—be aware of how you protect yourself. A protective posture might look like embellishing a story, taking a shortcut, or inflating your skills. I have found that each of these has the potential to mature into pride.
Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.—Proverbs 26:12
Fixation on Self
There will be times you will need to give self some attention, but this can turn into you fixating on yourself. When this happens, some of your perception of self will be accurate, and some will be inaccurate. Try to remember that an unhealthy fixation on self is not good. It results in us fixing our eyes on the self rather than Christ, which will result in prideful actions.
Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.—Hebrews 12:2
Need For Attention
There are times you are going to feel “unsuccessful.” In these moments, you may find you want and even need affirmation from others. Public attention does assist in validating our sense of self-worth. This is especially true when we’re building new relationships or engaging in new experiences. We all have a desire to be liked, but we shouldn’t allow this desire to give way to pride. For when our need for attention is met, and then becomes a validation of self-worth, the coupling of this feeling of reward is so powerful it will keep us coming back for more, and then pride takes hold.
Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.—Romans 12:16
Finding Fault in Others
There are times that the personality of a friend or a friend’s success is going to irritate you. Because of this, a prideful spirit is liable to swell up within you, which may exhibit itself through fault-finding. You may find yourself deliberately identifying, verbalizing, and pointing out their mistakes. Be cautious, because while someone might agree with your assessment, this is usually an attempt to make you feel better. It’s an attempt to degrade or to elevate self.
Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly I will destroy.—Psalm 101:5
Disregard Of Others
Finally, and perhaps the most challenging, disregarding those who are not like you. I cannot tell you how many times my pride has exhibited itself from a place of disregard. Each time I pass the homeless, I fail to take time to listen to my wife, shirk from extending generosity to those in need, and not inviting a friend for the sake of my comfort. We often dismiss this as an infringement of time, but it’s not. It’s the preservation of self, through the inner voice of disregard, and just another indicator of pride.
The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.’—Luke 18:11
Additionally, Inadequacy Can Be Pride
“Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel.—1 Samuel 15:17
We usually don’t think of inadequacy as pride. But if we take time to think about how insidious pride is, we’ll discover that we all have played this mind game. Just as overinflating our image is pride, so is underinflating our image. It’s where we attempt to make little of ourselves to feel better. This will work for a moment but not for long. It can escalate into secret shaming rants that are an attempt to punish the self. Most of the time, others are unaware that these critical tapes are playing in our minds, and they can diminish the good work God wants to do through you. Remember when the Lord anoints, he intends for his man to live this out.
How to Battle Pride
So daily, we must go to war with pride. It is a war that wages within each man, and each man must fight a little differently given his design and temptations. Regardless there is a way to battle that will diminish the power our tendencies give to pride.
Check Your Motives
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.—Proverbs 21:2
Our motive is the reason why we do what we do, and God cares far more about our motive than behavior alone. This doesn’t mean God doesn’t care about our practices, but that he knows our motivation drives behavior from pure or impure motives. So, as you do something, consider the reason why you are doing what you are about to do. Check your motivation; if it is done to draw attention to yourself, find a more honest course of action.
Accept Your Identity in Christ
In love, He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved. — Ephesians 1:5-6
You need to see yourself the way God sees you. “In love, He predestined you for adoption to Himself as a son.” This is not the power of positive thinking; it’s living in your spiritual reality. It’s becoming the man you already are in God’s eyes. Do this, and there is no need to prove your identity through your power or rely upon any power other than the Holy Spirit for strength. With God, there is no need for pride since your identity is found in Him and nothing else.
Give God Credit
As it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”—1 Corinthians 1:31
There is nothing more helpful for our everyday walk than deflecting glory to God. It may sound cliche, but when we give God glory, we gently remind ourselves that we don’t need it. Now, some will say that a football player pointing up to heaven in an end zone is trivial, but I do not believe this is true. It’s frequently an effort to deflect glory because we as men love to steal God’s glory. We do it more often than we realize, and this bad behavior is an influential teacher when coupled with a triumph for which we take full credit. Keep pointing up and deflect to God as much as possible. Remember, every good gift is from God. He is the only one we praise. He is worthy of praise.
Trust God’s Providence
Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.—James 4:15–16
It often fairs me well to remember that when things are or are not going my way, that they might be going the way God wants them. Trusting in God’s providence means I need to believe him each step of the way, and less in myself. Providence attacks pride at its core. It steals power from personal pride in that it reminds me that God is controlling things, and I am not. When you are frustrated, angry, and pride seeps in, remember God is ultimately in control, and you are not.
Pride is going to be a lifelong battle. Wage war daily for the battle is hard-fought—daily.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.—Ephesians 6:12
I love you son, Dad.
After serving in notable ministry organizations for over 25 years (including Young Life, InterVarsity, TCU Football, and Eagle Brook Church), Vince founded Resolute, a non-profit organization focused on providing men with tools for discipleship and mentorship. He’s written 13 books and handbooks, along with small group videos that are resources for mentorship. He also produces THE MEN’S DAILY DEVO and the MAN TALK PODCAST. His latest book is a devotional and mentoring guide for men called THIRTY VIRTUES THAT BUILD A MAN.