I had an experience this week which was a wake-up call for me. I didn’t see it at the time. It was only after the fact.
I had a quarrel with my wife – actually, it was three quarrels over the course of a couple of days. She had asked me not to take photos of her while on our Heaphy Track walk (you may have read my post here). Her reasons where personal. Well, being the camera junky that I am, I kept snapping away regardless. She knew I was doing it but kept her peace. Then, when it came to writing about the journey and adding pictures, she reiterated her request – “Please don’t put my pictures up.” I started taking issue with this (for no real reason), not just on one but two or three separate occasions. It all ended fairly badly with me looking like an idiot.
I knew I was wrong and this had to come before the throne of God. Jesus would require some explanation. My wife is given to me to be my close companion. I am to serve her and lay my life down for her (Eph. 5:25). I had done everything but that over the past couple of days. After a good period of confessing my sin and selfishness, I thought it was over.
The next day I met with a staff member who was holding me accountable for personal outreach and evangelism. One of the questions she asked me was, “what is the greatest obstacle for you in reaching out to lost people?” I paused and said, “fear of rejection.” I’m a full-blown people pleaser and I know it. “And what do you think, it is the root cause of your desire to please people?” she asked. I went quiet. Then I sensed a voice within me, You know what it is – tell her. “Pride,” I suddenly said, wondering how it came out of my mouth. Then the scene of my argument with my wife flashed up in front of me. I sensed a deep work of conviction by the Spirit of God. Oh dear, more to do here.
A little later I’m having a Skype session with my personal mentor, Rowland Forman. I shared with him some of the great things God is doing in our church. Rowland listened patiently and then read from 2 Corinthians 12:9 where Paul says, “Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.” Rowland asks me, “So what do you think is your greatest weakness?” I went silent as stone, and just sat there, looking at Rowland’s face staring at me through the computer screen, waiting for an answer. God had me well and truly cornered.
Pride is insidious. It is incredibly deceptive. It loves to hide behind masks of respectability and accomplishment. It’s the one thing God hates above all else (Proverbs 8:13; 16:5). It evidences itself in many ways, but most often via the tongue. Sooner or later you’ll blow your cover. And others see it long before you do. It’s not like you’ll start talking about how great you are. You’ll just begin to assert yourself and insist you are right and everyone else is wrong. And you’ll wind up hurting and offending those you love.
The very next day I came across a post by Eric Geiger. It’s called 10 Signs You Are More Prideful Than You Realize. He’s speaking specifically to Christian leaders, but many of these apply to all Christians regardless. A couple of these really spoke home to me – especially no. 9: Caring more about success than sanctification. God is richly blessing our church at this present time. It is all too easy to get caught up in that. Perhaps one or two of these might speak to you. Here is the post:
10 Signs You Are More Prideful Than You Realize
Though all of us struggle with pride, we often don’t recognize pride in our own lives and leadership. C. S. Lewis called pride the great sin and the sin we see in others much more easily than we see in ourselves. Following are ten signs leaders are more prideful than they realize. I wrote the list directed to the leader, and it is filled with sarcasm. I have seen them all at some point in my 20 years of leading, which means, according to Lewis, that tragically they have certainly existed in my own heart and life at times.
1. You don’t think you struggle with pride.
You know others struggle with pride, and you wonder why they do, because in your mind they do not have much to be prideful about. You do, but you have fought it off better than most have.
2. You feel you are owed.
You have done so very much for the organization that you have put them in debt to you. They owe you more money, more time, more of a lot of things they are not giving you.
3. You overestimate your contributions.
You secretly, and even not so secretly, pontificate on how much better things are because of your influence and contribution.
4. You underestimate your team’s contributions.
If you overestimate your contribution, you are sure to underestimate the team’s. You believe that you are the multiplier to all their work, creativity, thinking, and focus.
5. You rarely say “thank you.”
Ingratitude and pride are close friends. Why would you thank others, after all? They should be thanking you!
5. You think your successor will have it hard following you.
You wonder aloud to others how the whole organization will need to adjust when you leave because no one can fill your shoes. And if the organization does not adjust, and they put another person in your role, you express how you feel sorry for the pressure he/she will have to endure because of your amazing legacy.
7. You think your predecessor was an idiot.
You love to make snarky remarks about the person before you. It is such good news that you are now here to right all those foolish wrongs.
8. You often compare yourself to others.
It is important to find people whom you outpace in work ethic, intensity, learning, and results. After all, you need constant benchmarks to be sure you are dominating.
9. You care more about success than sanctification.
Your sanctification can come later, it is time for success now.
10. You can’t learn from people different than you.
People who are different than you should learn from you. Of course, everyone should. But they don’t have much to offer you because your context and your approach is just so unique