A few years ago, a friend of mine asked me what the bible says about pride. I never responded, but I came across that email a couple of days ago and it gave me pause. I think pride is another one of those words that we think we know, and we use a lot to describe one of two things:
- people we don't like
- commendable achievements
Pride isn't a bad thing when it's a little league team coming back from a tournament, representing their hometown. It's not a bad thing when our children win a competition or earn good grades. It's not bad when we're honoring our ethnic roots or alma mater.
But pride is bad when it's someone else. We use it to describe people who aren't open to our perspectives. We use it to identify people who are more successful than us. We use it to project our own sense of unworthiness. We use the word to make ourselves feel better, to delegitimize others because we don't feel legitimate.
And I guess...that's a form of pride, too. Because calling someone else prideful means we're saying we're not. We're suggesting that we're humble in comparison. It's possible to be proud of our humility.
In the book of Proverbs, pride leads to destruction, contention, and disgrace. The prophet Isaiah uses the word to label nations that God will soon destroy. The prophet Ezekiel uses it to describe Israel and its disloyalty to their God. But what does the word mean? What are its roots? What kind of imagery does it evoke?
The root in Hebrew is ga'ah. It means "to rise up; to grow up; to be exalted in triumph."
I looked up the word in a Hebrew Lexicon and one of the references was from Ezekiel 47:5 and describes the depth of a river. In a vision, a man is showing the prophet Ezekiel what the land and the Temple will be like after God restores the people to Israel. There's a river that runs along the right side of the Temple, and the mysterious man takes Ezekiel deeper and deeper until the prophet declares that he can go no further, because the water had risen and the river would wash him away.
This river would become a source of healing and would rejuvenate the land if Ezekiel's vision came to be.
But the river would overpower the person who convinced himself that he was stronger than its current.
I think, this is pride...
Pride is failing to recognize that the ultimate source of our goodness, our greatness, our triumph, our achievements, our life, and our breath are not rooted in us.
Pride is failing to understand that the person with whom you disagree is alive and brought into being by the very same source that enlivens you.
Pride is failing to believe that by trusting only in yourself, your thoughts, your successes, your beliefs, and perspectives, you demonstrate that you do not actually trust in the source that gives you the ability to think, act, feel, and speak.
Pride is failing to identify the source of life, and that we cannot contend with it.
So, how do we defeat pride? How do we diminish its presence in our lives? Well, it's not really about being less prideful, or more humble. It's about believing with all of your heart, soul, strength, and mind that you are merely a vessel for life, not its creator. It's about standing in the river and saying, "This power could wash me away." It's about being in awe of that power, that life source.
Be in awe.
Your pride will die.