Many believe that pride is a bad thing, and it usually is, but it doesn’t have to be. We can be proud of a job well done; we can be proud of our country, our friends, or even our way of life. We can be proud of the accomplishments we have achieved during our lifetime.
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I believe there is a difference between being proud of something and being prideful. Being proud is simply feeling good about what you have accomplished, knowing that you did it skillfully. Pridefulness is thinking that because your skills are superior, YOU are superior.
This feeling of self-importance and superiority is sinful, and the way to quell it is to be humble. Not false humility, but true humility.
As Shakespeare would say, “Ah! There’s the rub!”
As a Marine, I often say (what a United States Marines can rightfully say) “It’s hard to be humble when you’re the best!”
Of course, I am joking; yet, it does raise the question of how can anyone be humble when they know they are better at something than someone else? There is nothing wrong with being more skillful than someone else at a certain thing, or for that matter, nothing wrong with being less skilled than someone else.
God gave each of us certain gifts and talents, designed and meant to be used for his glory. The special gift or skill God gave doesn’t make you or me a better person than anyone else, it just means we can do something better than someone else. And maybe that is the best way to remain humble: realizing that no one is really any better a person than anyone else, it’s just that we each have different abilities, abilities which we did not give to ourselves but which were given to us.
I know people with advanced degrees in education who can’t boil water, and people with little more than a high school education who can finish the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle in under an hour. Some people are capable of doing just about any kind of handyman work but can’t balance a checkbook, and others who have a mind for mathematics but can’t change a lightbulb.
I have achieved much in my life that many never could, and I have skills and abilities that many don’t. Because of this, I fight with pridefulness because I am also a human being, infused from birth with iniquity. It is only with God’s help through his Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) indwelling in me that reminds me I am nothing special. And I really, honestly know that to be true. I am not being falsely humble, and I can say that because God has provided me, and still does, many opportunities to realize just “un-special” I really am. I have been fired more than once, I have had a failed marriage, I have been bankrupt, my children disowned me ( thanks to God I have reconciled with my son), and I have many experiences that I cannot forget which demonstrated my immaturity, selfishness, and incompetence.
And I am truly grateful to God for putting me through this tsouris in my life in order to keep me in line.
Nebuchadnezzar is a great example of learning humility, and you can read about it in the Book of Daniel, Chapter 4.
The first step to defeating pridefulness is to recognize it in yourself, and here is a simple test:
When you feel proud of something are you thinking “Look at what I can do” or are you thinking, “Thank you, Lord, for the gifts you gave me which enable me to do these wonderful things”?
Here is today’s final lesson: we can never really defeat pridefulness, we can only control it.
It is like any other sin, which means we are always subject to backsliding. People who have overcome drug addiction will not say they are cured, they will say they are “recovered” because they know that they could slide back into that dark and deathly lifestyle at any time if they do not maintain control.
I will finish with this: we are, every single one of us, a musical instrument and when we are played by God we can make beautiful music that can change the world. On our own, we can’t do anything. Understanding, accepting and being thankful for this truth is how you can begin to defeat pridefulness.
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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!