More often than not, it’s my pride that has blocked my ability to even see where I’m at fault. What we are all searching for, according to Eugene Peterson, is not the pride of life, but a meaningful one. The title of his classic book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction for which he credits Friedrich Nietzsche, reminds me: if I live long enough, this will not be a short story. It takes time to “arrive.” And we Christians are given the joyous hope that heaven is the arrival.
The wisest man to ever live, Solomon, sums up the entire meaning of life in his last speech: you’d think it would be at least three hundred words. No. He simply states,
“Fear God and keep His commandments.” (Ecc. 12:13) Not so simple, we find.
- That means I might have to hold my tongue.
- Or, it means I might need to speak my mind.
- Or, even set aside my pride and serve in ways I could never have imagined.
But why even care about our pride? Isn’t pride sometimes a good thing? At its worst, it can deceive us.
C.S. Lewis said, “Pride is the pleasure of being above the rest.” No wonder pride goes before the fall, right?
I can envision myself the night I walked into a ballroom, at the top of a grand staircase. All eyes on me. I felt exquisite in my crimson ball gown. My up-do was in place. My earrings sparkled. Then I saw some women, their eyes darting upward at me, and they huddled together in the corner. Was I imagining it, or were they whispering about me? They looked suspiciously judgmental. I suddenly realized, I was one of only a handful of women in the room dressed so formally. Everyone else, everyone who mattered was dressed in cocktail dresses, not formal gowns. My knees were shaking. I know it’s a superficial thing, but we women put ourselves through unwarranted angst over how we look. Men probably do as well.
“I’ve got to make an elegant entrance in this hideous thing,” I’m suddenly thinking. I want to disappear. I’m afraid I’ll trip. Then, I heard a reassurance:
Hold your head up. You’ll be fine. Lift the edge of your gown so it won’t get caught on a heel. Take each step as it comes. Smile. Enjoy yourself. No, it wasn’t my spouse. It was that inner voice which I’d begun to nurture, from the God who loves me. Isaiah 52:12 even says, God has our back: “The God of Israel will be your rear guard.”
This scenario actually happened to me, but not on top of a grand staircase and the scene was not quite as dramatic as the one I’m recreating here. It was an event for which my husband brought home tickets, to be held in a beautiful hotel ballroom (no stairs) where a number of other business leaders in town, and their guests, would be dining and dancing.
My experience ended up much better than I had anticipated, and everyone mingled and had a really nice time, from what I recall. We all forgot about ourselves long enough to genuinely listen to one another. We relaxed, felt more comfortable as the night progressed. To this day, when I walk into a room full of people and I notice someone who may feel just as insecure as I did, I say a quick prayer, and I’ll try to put them at ease.
Another aspect of pride is what it can prevent us from doing, like us writers who hesitate to help ourselves further our art, or our career. I found this statistic quite startling when I first heard it from a successful agent: Most writers, a very high percentage, when afforded the chance to submit their work to an agency–after a nerve-wracking few minutes making their “pitch”—never actually do! This is likely due to the artist’s insecurities, which can be fueled by pride:
- “My writing will never quite fit that genre.”
- “They were just being nice.”
- “I’ve got to wait until it’s perfect.”
- “Their criticism would devastate me!”
Pastor Tim Keller, in his book The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness writes, “Paul puts it very simply…. He knows he cannot justify himself. And what does he say? He says that it is the Lord who judges him. It is only His opinion that counts. Do you realize that it is only in the gospel of Jesus Christ that you get the verdict before the performance?”
And then there are those of us writers who could use a little restraint. I could have certainly held back from sending in so much unrevised work, for years on end, bombarding every imaginable agent who accepted unsolicited manuscripts. All of the rejections were certainly keeping my pride in check. But I’m learning. There’s a good, healthy balance where pride is concerned, and if it takes a lifetime, I intend to find it.