My mother used to say, “Pride Goeth Before a Fall”, especially when my brother and I were acting out or doing something she thought particularly foolhardy for attention, but honestly, I had no idea what it meant then and I only recently learned that the expression is probably a misquote from the King James Version of the Bible of Proverbs 16:18.
“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.“
We recently had a thought-provoking discussion in our Sunday School class on “pride”. We came up with a lot of definitions, but we still seemed a bit baffled by what it means in the theological sense of the word and whether or not pride is really as bad as they say it is. For instance, several questions were posed whether it is so bad to take pride in your work, your children, your looks? Is it bad to take pride in your nation? So, the question remains: is pride a virtue or a vice?
“Pride derives from the French word “prud,” which is a late Old English word variously translated as “excellent, splendid, arrogant, haughty.” It is thought that “having a high opinion of oneself” might reflect the Anglo-Saxons opinion of Norman knights who called themselves “proud.”
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary offers multiple definitions for “pride.” A positive one is “A feeling that you respect yourself and deserve to be respected by others.” This seems like a healthy aspect of pride. But then there’s: “A feeling that you are more important or better than other people” and “inordinate self-esteem.” This appears to be a common, not-so-healthy conceit, reflected in statements like, “He had too much pride to ask for help” or “her pride prevented her from admitting she was wrong.”
Obviously the Bible is very clear that PRIDE earns its first place amongst the Seven Deadly Sins. (envy, gluttony, greed or avarice, lust, sloth, and wrath being the other six).
In Proverbs 8:13, Wisdom takes on a persona and says, “To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.” (NIV)
Look at other translations of this verse:
“The [reverent] fear and worshipful awe of the Lord includes the hatred of evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way, And the perverted mouth, I hate.” (AMP)
“The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.” (ESV)
“To honor the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil ways and false words.” (GNT)
“The fear of the Lord is to hate what is sinful. I hate pride, self-love, the way of sin, and lies.” (NLV)
“All who fear the Lord will hate evil. Therefore, I hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech.” (NLT)
“Pride” in this verse means to act in a way toward others that makes it seem that you are better than they are. You are puffed up, “arrogant”, you have “self-love” and therefore you show no humility. Since humbleness is a character trait God favours, we oppose God when we are prideful. (James 4:6) “Evil” in this passage means you are bent on going in a different way that is contrary to the Lord’s direction. Lastly, you habitually say things that are the opposite of what is good and kind so as to create antagonism and division.
It is obvious that God despises someone who is proud because this leads to selfishness, self-love and a disregard for others. Pride causes us to define ourselves by what we can achieve on our own rather than be fully reliant on God, and rather than giving Him the Glory whenever any of our plans succeed, we take full credit ourselves.
So, I come back to our Sunday School discussion on taking pride in work, children, nation etc. etc. I find it interesting that as I was researching this, Psychology Today, a predominantly secular magazine, seems to agree with the Biblical view on Pride:
“We might believe that healthy self-worth means taking pride in our achievements. But if value is tied to our accomplishments or self-image, it’s built upon on a fragile foundation.
There’s nothing wrong with feeling satisfaction when we achieve some goal, such as getting a promotion or buying a new car. But if we allow these things to define who we are, we set ourselves up for misery.”…
“Perhaps there’s good reason why pride has been considered one of the seven deadly sins. We’ve all been repelled by people who have an inflated view of themselves. They may talk about themselves excessively and rarely show interest in others. They pump themselves up and come across as snooty–exuding an attitude that makes others feel judged.
Such over-confidence and arrogance pushes us away. Instead of relating to us as equals, they display an obnoxious superiority that makes us feel small. They have the knack of making us feel the shame that they refuse to face within themselves.” (Psychology Today)
“But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord. “For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.”