Resisting the Poison of Pride
“Be humble” goes the Kendrick Lamar lyric.
Let’s level for a moment: we’ve heard such things time, and time (and time), again. Similarly, we all know why it’s important to have humility, having also become familiarised with sayings like “pride cometh before the fall” - based on the verse from Proverbs 16:18 of the King James Bible: “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”
So why, especially as Christians, do we often forget the above?
I was recently at a large technology exhibition and conference that had me thinking about that. The event, taking place over several days, brought in businesspeople, journalists, innovators, politicians and more from all over the world - the kind of people who very much indeed are shaping what the future will look like for all of us. In going around and interviewing people for my job with a magazine, what was interesting were the people who were doing some of the most world-changing things were some of the most humble - while those who were “full of hot air” were often the ones who seemed the most prideful.
Our culture is littered with examples. A recent one some people may have heard of is the story of Elizabeth Holmes, who dropped out of university to found the biotech company Theranos, and who was at one point the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world before it was revealed her company’s much-hyped technology didn’t work. Now likely heading to prison, one of the most fascinating - and saddest - aspects from the ABC podcast series about her called The Dropout (highly recommended if you haven’t listened to it yet) is the descent into hubris that seems to have afflicted her, such as continuing to fly on a private jet and have her own company pay for the mansion she lived in (which, further illustrating the point, looked beautiful on the outside, but literally had almost no furniture on the inside), even as the company spent millions upon millions of dollars on Holmes’ legal bills and laid off all of its thousands of staff as it spent years spiraling into bankruptcy. While Holmes may have had good intentions at one point, pride eventually destroyed both her company and her.
We’ve spoken before about Biblical examples of what happens when we become prideful, particularly the story of King David and how God humbled him by having his son Saul and his army chase him, causing David to flee for his life even though he was the king. In fact, one could argue pride was one of the results of the original sin.
When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, Satan had told them that if they did so they’d be like God. The irony, of course, is once they ate the fruit, rather than being like Him, Adam and Eve were ashamed to be in God’s presence because they were naked, so they hid to clothe themselves. Their pride could not take being before Him.
Money. Fame. Power. All these things are a toxic brew that can cause us to become prideful, for our hubris to take hold. How do we fend off being poisoned by pride? You guessed it: we can look to the Bible for the antidote.
As with so many things, we can follow Jesus’ example. He was the literal Son of God; if anything can be an excuse to be prideful, that’s it. But instead of “living large” in the fanciest palaces, wearing the nicest clothes, or ruling an earthly empire, He travelled throughout the land in probably the same dirty, tattered robes, often stayed at the homes of tax collectors and others looked down on by society, and ministered to the likes of beggars and prostitutes. And, of course, He allowed Himself to be killed publicly in one of the most agonising, humiliating ways possible so we could all be saved. There is no greater example of humility.
Again, Kendrick Lamar said it well: be humble. And we can add: don’t be like Adam and Eve. Be like Jesus.