C. S. Lewis observed, “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” Let’s face it, pride is a turn off. Prideful people aren’t much fun to be around. Pride frays at the fabric of relationships: marriage, family, team or community. It stunts personal growth. It blinds us to our every weakness so that we live in a dangerous state of overconfidence. Most of the time I am flawless at seeing other people’s pride but not so good at seeing my own.
I can tell myself I have a humble attitude and blithely continue in my established prideful habits. It is in focusing on my habits that pridefulness is revealed. Here’s a few habits I’ve noticed in myself over the years:
1. The practice of entitlement. I tell myself that because I am so smart or so hard-working that I’m entitled to ________. Fill in this blank with some item from your list of self-indulgences. Perhaps the worst form of pride is actually self-despair. I tell myself that because of the hurts and grievances I’ve received in life, I am entitled to _______. Fill in with another item from your list of self-indulgences. Self-despair may seem a strange form of pride but it accomplishes the same purpose: you get to make yourself the center of the universe.
The habit of entitlement is easily replaced by the habit of gratitude. Humble people are always thanking others and praising them—starting with their spouses, their children their family members. They are always finding ways to verbally appreciate the people around them. Paul is our example here. He often began his letters like this, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you…” (Philippians 1:3)
2. Stop learning. When I feel superior to certain people, I stop learning from them. I close up when they open their mouths. Prideful people don’t learn from those they think are beneath them. Prideful people also don’t learn from people who are above them. You can’t learn from someone that you envy or are jealous of. Spouses see this, so do children. They can see your “learning switch” move to “off” before you’re even aware of it.
Here’s an idea I use: carry a notebook everywhere. Always keep it open when other people are talking. Take notes even from people you don’t think have anything to teach you. You will be surprised. Jesus learned so much from his rivals, the Pharisees, that he was able to say, “Do what they tell you but not the works they do.” (Mt 23:3)
3. Do it all yourself. Prideful people want all the credit. They want to hear their own name all the time. So they don’t share leadership, responsibility, nor do they delegate any task. I may tell myself that it’s because I want things done right but what I really mean is that I want all the credit. It doesn’t matter whether we are talking here about raising children or planning some major program. Humble people on the other hand are always finding ways to involve others, develop others and push others forward into the spotlight. Nobody did this better than Jesus. He spent just three years teaching and delegating responsibility to a tiny group of illiterate peasants. Then he turned his whole mission over to them! Behold a humble leader! His trust was vindicated when the apostles set the world on fire. What if I shared leadership with my spouse, my children or my co-workers? I know from experience the result: more joy in me and everyone around me.