As I was recently reading about the fall of Babylon in 539 BC and thinking about the pride that led to that fall, it struck me that pride is a sort of “spiritual hypertension.” Those who suffer from it look and feel roughly the same as everyone else around them; often, they are not even aware that they have it. Yet, just as high blood pressure silently erodes the body, so too pride quietly erodes our spiritual life. Specifically, it damages our relationship with God, our relationship with others, and eventually our relationship with ourselves.
James 4:6 indicates that “God opposes the proud.” He doesn’t just pity or tolerate the proud; He actively opposes them. Look at what happened to His top angel, Lucifer, when he became prideful. God cast him out of heaven, never to return. Apparently, God takes pride very seriously even when we do not. It is extremely difficult to have a positive relationship with God when He is opposing us!
Pride also limits our human relationships. In marriage, when one spouse views the other with contempt (of a lower station or class than themselves), the marriage is almost always doomed to failure. Friendships likewise depend on a sense of equality, not in wealth, talent, or intelligence, but in essence or kind. We must view each other as peers in our humanity, the details being entirely secondary. Pride wants to group others into categories not worthy of our attention, quickly limiting our pool of potential relationships. Pride is a lonely path.
Eventually, however, life bumps up against our pride. We then come face to face with the fact that we aren’t perfect, we aren’t always right, and we aren’t better than everyone else. Often it is a loss in our life — loss of a job, of our health, or a treasured relationship — that clues us in. This can be a great time of growth and self-awareness.
Unfortunately, pride has a tendency to become angry and fight back. It shouts, “It’s everyone else’s fault, not mine!” When this doesn’t work, it becomes depressed and moody. It whispers, “It really is everyone else’s fault” in the back of our mind. It makes us a miserable wretch, clinging to a falsehood we want so desperately to be true.
But, if somewhere amidst the crests and troughs of our turbulent sea of wretchedness, we can let go of pride and grab the lifeline of humility, we will find that God does indeed “give grace to the humble” just as His word promises. No longer opposing us, He begins to calm the seas around us. We discover we aren’t alone after all; the sea is full of others clinging to similar lifelines. And although each one is unique in many ways, each is still nothing more or less than we are — a simple human being in desperate need of God’s grace.