The wisdom of Proverbs declares in verse 11:2 that “when pride comes, then comes dishonor,” and in verse 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction. And a haughty spirit before stumbling.”
Remember the Biblical story of Nebuchadnezzar, the king, who was made to live and eat with the beasts of the field and wild donkeys because of his pride? Daniel 5:21 declares that he was “given grass to eat like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until he recognized that the Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind and that He sets over it whomever He wishes.”
God truly places those in authority over His church as he sees fit and also removes whomever He chooses. Pride is probably the major reason for a lack of favor with God and therefore lack of success in ministry. It is also the major root issue in failure. As James 4:6 declares ” . . . God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Though this failure principle is commonly known in ministry circles, few of us readily admit to having pride and still fewer seem to actively repent. Because pride can be very subtle in its manifestations, many do not know the telltale signs of pride. Consider the following characteristics of hidden pride and see if God reveals any indications of pride in your life. Be brave. Ask those who know you well if they see any of these characteristics in your life.
SIGNS OF PRIDE
1. Insecurity. Research reveals clergy as one of the most insecure of all professional groups. Insecurity is the root of many unhealthy and ungodly behaviors. It provokes us to want the lavish praise and attention of others too much. Much of pride is motivated out of one’s unmet need for self-worth. Finding one’s identity and security in Christ is a must to avoid pride.
2. The need to be right. Ever encounter someone who has a hard time being wrong? This is a symptom of pride. The need to be right prevents one from appropriately evaluating issues as well as themselves (Galatians 6:3). A person who needs to be right has an exalted investment in himself or herself and thinks that he/she knows better than others. In religious circles, the need to be right is frequently manifested through always saying ‘God told me’ or ‘God showed me’.
3. Being argumentative. Individuals, who argue their point of view, especially to those in authority over them, are allowing pride to get the best of them. At the root of their argument is a belief that they are right and the other is wrong and that their will should prevail. It is appropriate to advocate for a point of view or position but not to do so in such a manner that you are more invested in your opinion than in arriving at a mutual understanding.
4. More invested in being heard than in hearing. When someone develops a pattern of needing others to listen to them rather than first hearing others, pride is motivating the need. The need to be heard is common among clergy who are insecure. Oftentimes, the individual does not feel loved or valued unless people “hear them out.” In truth, this is often just an _expression of insecurity and pride.
5. Anger. Anger is a self-justifying emotion. This means that the nature of anger is to prompt us to justify our position and blame another for the wrongdoing. Justification of self leads to denial of our own complicity or wrongdoing. The scripture warns that the “anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20). An individual who is angry a lot is suffering from pride.
6. Irritability and impatience. Even though I am a counselor, it was only recently that I learned that the root of impatience in my life is anger and therefore pride. When we are unable to be patient with another and are irritated, it demonstrates a haughty view of self. We feel that our views, time or needs are more important than the other persons. This again is more an indication of our pride than someone else’s slow movement or imperfection.
7. Lack of submissive attitude. Submission is the voluntary placement of oneself under the influence, control or authority of another. When an individual pledges their submission to you or another, yet is critical or argumentative of that authority, then pride is the hidden issue. The test of humility and submission is being able to say ‘yes’, maintain a positive attitude and trust God, especially when the decision of your authority goes against your grain or better judgment.
8. Not easily corrected. Ever work or live with someone who won’t receive any negative or corrective feedback? This too is pride. Before he died, a pastor in the East Valley was noted for being easily entreated and able to receive corrective feedback from others. He would thank the person for the negative feedback and commit to pray about it, seek counsel and get back to the person with what conclusions he came to. He was a role model for many of us.
9. Receiving correction but not changing. I worked with a man who often would receive my correction and say thank you for the feedback, but would never change. This too is a form of pride. The individual was placating me and people-pleasing me, telling me what I wanted to hear but not really taking the feedback to heart. His insecurity and fear prevented him from truly changing.
10. Needing others to take your advice. Counselors, such as myself, easily fall into the trap of having to have others take their advice. Advice should always be offered without strings attached. If you find yourself resenting the fact that your advice is not followed, look deeper at the motivating issues in your life.
11. Needing to proclaim your title or degrees. A good friend of mine requires everyone to call him ‘pastor’, saying that he has deservedly earned the title. Demanding that others call you ‘doctor’ or ‘pastor’ or ‘bishop’ is usually a way of making you ‘one up’ and them ‘one down’. Once again, pride is fueling the requirement.
12. Being stubborn. Webster’s dictionary defines stubbornness as “unduly determined to exert one’s own will, not easily persuaded and difficult to handle or work, resistant.” The root issue of stubbornness is willfulness, which is ‘I want what I want when I want it’. Another name for pride.
13. Comparisons and competition. 2 Corinthians 10:12 makes it clear that comparing oneself with others is unwise. Comparison is a form of competition. It is often overt. For example, emphasizing the size of one’s church, the number of converts, etc. However, it can also be the subtle sin of heart that inwardly grieves when another is more successful or rejoices when another pastor’s ministry enters hard times. The motive of heart is pride.