I think I was in elementary school when I decided that I would write the paper for any group project I had to do. If I wrote it, I could control it. I wasn’t going to turn in sloppy work with my name on it. The system worked well until I got into graduate school and found myself in a staring contest with a guy who had adopted the same strategy. We finally worked out a compromise. He wrote; I edited.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to see things done well. We should be confident in our gifts and talents and proud of a job well done. Yet like fear, pride can also lead to a spirit of control. That’s where we need to be careful.
Pride leads to control when:
- It numbs us to our need for God. Pride doesn’t leave room for God in our thoughts (Psalm 10:4). Pride convinces us that we can depend on our own talents and resources. The problem is that human strength is insufficient to accomplish a spiritual task. When Jesus said that we can accomplish nothing apart from him, he meant it. Our greatest strength comes from dependence, not self-sufficiency. Pride isolates us from the life-giving flow of the Spirit.
- It blinds us to our own weaknesses. “Pride goes before a fall” is an overly quoted verse for a reason: It’s true. When pride convinces us we’ve got this down, we stop watching for mistakes and pitfalls. Thinking you can’t make a mistake is the best way to ensure one.
- It silences other people’s voices. If you think you know it all, there’s no reason to listen to anyone else’s input. That’s a dangerous place to be. Often it’s not that things should be done my way or her way; it’s that we need to do things our way. We need to dream big, but we also need to watch the budget. Get the project done on time, but get it done well. We need holiness and grace; hymns and choruses; freedom and structure. Pride ignores other people’s perspectives. Humility honors them.
When we forget our need for God, stop seeing our own weaknesses, and ignore other people’s wisdom, we start living out of pride-driven control. Suggestions become demands, we refuse to consider other people’s perspectives, and start tossing people off the bus. If we insist on doing it all our own way, eventually people start letting us. Pride may go before a fall, but it also walks alone.
So how do we tame our prideful tendencies?
- Cultivate dependence on Christ. We need to live like we’re the branch, not the vine. The discipline of daily devotion and prayer is essential, but it can’t stop there. What if instead of assuming we know what God wants in a given situation, we stopped to ask? If we began every planning meeting with prayer–not just routine, but inviting people to seek God together and listen for his voice? If we came to Scripture expecting and actively seeking to meet with God as we study his word? Honoring Jesus as Lord checks pride and places us under his control.
- Assess ourselves honestly. “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you” (Romans 12:3). We need to be honest about our own weaknesses. That doesn’t mean seeing ourselves as wretched worms, but soberly recognizing that we still have room to grow. Maybe you’ve got great ideas, but tend to be fuzzy with details. Or you get so involved in information gathering that you never get around to making a decision. Recognizing our own areas of weakness can help us lean on other people’s strength.
- Live with an attitude of honor. The only competition in the body of Christ should be to outdo one another in showing honor. Pride silences others; honor elevates them. We honor others by seeking their perspective and listening to their points of view. Honor encourages other people to use their gifts. It reminds us that there is beauty in diversity and strength in unity. Honor delights in seeing God’s glory displayed in those around us. Pride elevates self; honor elevates others.
Pride puts a ceiling on what we can accomplish. Living out of control means that anything I touch will only be as big as what I can do. If I want God-sized results, I have to be willing to hand over the reigns. Want to see God move? Let go. Stand back. Watch to see what God does–because God does amazing really well.
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