Warning: this post is hard to read, this post will hurt, this post is rated MA (mature audiences only), and this post will inevitably change your view of yourself. Enter at own risk!
While incarcerated years ago, I had a terrible dream one night. You know, one of those dreams that are so vivid and realistic that you never forget the dream. I was in heaven, raising hell. I was yelling at the top of my lungs at my deceased mother and my deceased father. There was much pain, and I could feel my heart pouring out venom of resentment and hurt. I can’t remember what I was lashing out about or why. That isn’t important (is it ever?). I just kept yelling and letting something out of my innermost being. Suddenly, a phone rang, and I picked it up. “Hello…What!?” The answer: “You can let go now”. “Let go of what?” I asked. The answer: “Pride”. At that moment I woke up; I mean straight out of bed woke up. What the heck kind of answer is that? I thought when I awoke that the answer would be to let go of death or let go of the pain or something “Dr. Phil-ish” like that. But no, the answer was pride. I knew at once that this was no ordinary dream. It was not to be dismissed. So I took it upon myself to do a little research on what pride really was. It obviously wasn’t what I thought it was. So I began to search through the Bible to get to the bottom of this scourge called pride.
Defining Pride and It’s Invasive Nature
Researching pride was very difficult to say the least. The problem here is that humility is basically defined as the opposite of pride; and pride is intrinsically the absence of humility! The Hebrew transliterated word for pride is ga’own (strongs #01347) and means “exaltation” and there are actually many other Hebrew words for pride as well but they all circle back to the “exaltation of one’s self”. The Hebrew transliterated word ga’own is found in the verse most of us are familiar with: Proverbs 16:18 which says, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall”. The Greek words for pride are alazoneia (strongs #212) and means “a trusting in one’s own power”, huperephania (strongs #5243) meaning “a swollen estimate of one’s own powers or merits”, and tuphoo (strongs #5187) meaning “to raise up a smoke or to wrap in a mist”. So we may glean some very sound wisdom here: pride is exalting one’s self, trusting in our own power, overestimating our abilities, and that defined is placing trust in smoke! I love our Holy God…He doesn’t mince words does He? There is also the element of a “smoke screen”. One can see smoke, it looks to be substantive, it seems to be tangible, but in reality is only a vanishing vapor of what once existed. Pride is placing our will above His will; pride is focusing on temporal, man-made conditions (negative or positive); pride tries to define itself; and pride “leans on its own understanding” rather than “trusting the Lord” (Proverbs 3:5). As long as we focus on “self” to solve our problems, we can never, ever find the solutions. In essence, pride is a definition of where we seek our answers, Who we look to define ourselves, and how we look in the wrong places for answers. If we look through the lens of “self” to figure out how to fix ourselves, then we will be sorely disappointed!
When I was brought to the lowest point in my life, I had assumed that all pride was gone. As is always the case, I was wrong! I had lost all self-respect and had lost all self-esteem. After this dream, I thought the same thing: let go of pride…what pride? I hated myself (thought I did anyway); I was self loathing; I was self-despising; I was self-nauseated; I was over me altogether. How then will I let go of something that left me long ago? I was perplexed to say the least, and it took a long time to figure out the problem. Thank God I had plenty of time sitting in jail! Had I not been in jail, I probably would have gone on without ever getting to the bottom of it. I always tell my friends that being locked up was the worst, best thing that ever happened to me. I learned a lot about the Lord and myself and the relationship between the two while I was in “time-out”. It’s been many years past that I sat behind bars, but don’t get me wrong, I still battle this demon daily. And so do you. Remember, when you think you don’t have any pride left in your life, watch out!
Notice in my description of my mental state above, I used words like “self-loathing”, “self-despising”, and other phrases that focused on self. I hated myself. What did I do with my time of misery before I awoke from this “self” nightmare? I focused on self. You see, it doesn’t matter whether it is in a positive way or a negative way; the fact that I was still focused on self was the problem! Low self-esteem and no self-confidence are neither here nor there because as long as the emphasis is still on “self”…it is still self-“ish”. Focus on “self”, negative or positive, is still selfish: the world according to me, life through my eyes, my misery, my pain, my perspective however nasty. Can we ever escape from self?
Changing Our Focus
Somehow, we have to get away from always focusing on ourselves. How is this even possible? The Lord always brings us back to the Truth: you can’t do it; you cannot will yourself not to focus on self because it is still your will; only God can do it for you. God is spirit; you are spirit as well. Jesus saturates us with parables and teachings about finding the spiritual inside of each of us. It is inescapable. All things are possible with God, if we know how to approach Him. To be born again is to be born spiritually (John 3:1-7) . The battle of pride is fought on the battleground of spiritual existence (Ephesians 6:12). If you don’t believe me, try to make yourself, just for one hour of your day, a humble person. Remember, it is a matter of the heart; you can’t pretend to be humble and it count! If you are honest, you will have to focus on yourself, inwardly, to “muster-up” the humility. Impossible!
Praise the Almighty God in heaven, He has provided us the power to fix this problem (or at least fix it one day at a time). The answer is at first glance, simple: Focus on Him; subject yourself to His will; offer up self as a sacrifice daily; live through Him. This begs the question: “How do we do this?”
This is a process, as all seeking is. We have to start with our relationship with God, but then you will see it has to move to our relationship with others. It is a circuit; a process of a river flowing into a lake to fill it on one end but then another river (really the same river) forms flowing out of that lake at the opposite end when it is overflowing. If there is no out-flow if you will, then the lake becomes stagnant and there is no way to circulate the water and keep it life-giving. So it is with us; we must allow what fills us to flow outward to others. Remember, pride is one of the greatest tools of the liar; and pride will always cause you to stumble. There is no way around it. So let us take this soberly and know that conquering pride is essential and not optional to serving our King.
Do any of us have the power to create our day? Can you will yourself to wake up joyful and stay joyful, can any of us cause ourselves to be peaceful within, can you make yourself feel love? We can try to do things, buy things, take things, latch onto other people (including loved ones), and a whole lot of other things to try to accomplish the fruitless task of attaining these states of the heart. It all ends up in loneliness and a broken heart; all things eventually disappoint, except One. The problem is within us; and so is the solution. The same applies with pride: you can’t just wake up every morning humble!
WHERE IS YOUR HEART?
Matters of the heart must be addressed by the possessor of that heart. Do you own your heart or have you given it away? If you have given it away, to what or to whom did you give it? The heart is not always in the same hands day-to-day. It can be moved, it can wander, be traded, and even sold every day. That is a scary thought isn’t it? The good news is that the decision of where your heart sets begins with you. Finally! Something self can do. That’s right, you have a decision to make every single day as what to set your heart on or in. Congratulations, you do have a say in the matter. It is your choice where you place your heart and trust. That decision is a very powerful one indeed; for the heart is the door by which Power may enter.
IT ALL STARTS WITH PRAYER
Let me start with prayer, and then we will look at the Lord’s Prayer in particular. Generally speaking, nothing spiritual can be done without prayer. Period. Why: Because that is where communion begins. You can’t enter the spiritual realm without using the entryway. All disciples past, present, and future know that all power flows out of prayer, through prayer, and in prayer. So how do we pray? For sure it is a process that develops over time but, even our first prayers are precious to God. Imagine a young child (one of your children if you have one) bringing you something they drew for you with crayons. They drew it just for you. If the drawing is imperfect, does it make the drawing any less precious? Do you mock the child for the imperfection or love that child for putting their heart into it? So are our first prayers to our Father; and the prayers may be imperfect, awkward, inaccurate or just plain messy but He doesn’t care. Maybe he’ll put them up on His refrigerator! You get the point. As all spiritual Truths are: it is a process and a path, what the Word calls “seeking”. The main point here is that being on the right path is absolutely crucial. When that child gets older, does he draw dogs that look like cats and houses that look like sky-scrapers? As we mature, our drawings (prayers) begin to communicate much more and more accurately depict their meaning as expressions of love: a growing love.
Read the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:2-4, Matthew 6:9-13) and then let’s look at some important points. Notice if you will, there is no mention of “my”, “me”, or “I” but rather; “our” and “us”. This is important as I will show shortly. But notice where the emphasis is placed to begin the prayer: “Our Father”, “Your name”, “Your kingdom”, “Your will”. I love the Scriptures; there is literally an infinite amount of wisdom and knowledge hidden in even the simplest of verses. The first thing to do is place your heart in Him; or rather, subject your will to His will. The actual words are important, but only as important as the spiritual Truth behind and in them. Prayer inevitably starts with words but transforms into something beyond words. As any Christian matures spiritually, he or she understands more about prayer and the power of prayer. When I experienced what David described as “the melting of his heart like wax” (Psalm 22:14), I fell to my knees and wept in joy and awe. Each of us is somewhere in the middle of a journey; we are not all at the same place at the same time. That’s what makes prayer even more precious to the Lord. Understanding the principle of placing the emphasis on God and subjecting your will to His will is always a work in progress, but He still hears your heart’s intentions. That’s reassuring because I’ve thrown up some pretty messy prayers in the past and recently! However, how you get there doesn’t matter as long as you get there every day. I repeat, every day.
So once we have approached God by recognizing His place, then we move into the next phase: us. Why “us”? What’s wrong with, “Give me this day, my daily bread” or “Lead me not into temptation but deliver me from evil”? Because we are the “body of Christ”; we as Christians, are one whole body, not loners. Much work is done in prayer individually, but lifted up as a whole. This is an advanced prayer don’t you think? Try to pray using “us” instead of “me” and you will see why He shared this with His disciples and not the whole multitude. In order to get to “us”, you have no choice but to start with “me”. I may be losing some of you here. Remember I said that we have to start with our relationship with Him and then progress into relationship with others.
Here it is: “us” is relationship by definition. The emphasis or focus starts with the Lord and then must progress to others as part of one body. We are the bride of Christ, I may be the left toe and you may be an eyelash; but together, we collectively are a beautiful prize! So if you want to please God, you have to do it with us. Did anyone just see pride leaving the building? I thought I caught a glimpse of it as Satan snatched it off the table. Glory be to God! Your self just got swallowed up into the whole.
Our King is awesome. You see, the beauty here is where you place your heart: we give our hearts to God, He gives us His heart, and we then give His heart away to each other. Now, nobody owns his own heart once it is given to God and consequently to others; it is shared. Your heart is now ready to be an instrument of love. Remember when the guy asked Jesus what the most important commandment was? And Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind, and with all of your strength. And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:35-40. It is apparent that the emphasis, in the Lord’s Prayer and in the greatest commandment(s), is the same: God first, then others. By the way, it’s o.k. to “love yourself” as stated in the last part of the verse above; it just went to “the back of the bus”. Christ Jesus sanctifies and purifies everything He touches. God makes all things through life; He is life. If He has made you spiritually alive, then by all means, love it! But remember, He is the potter and we only the clay. He fashions that clay into a vessel. And a vessel is useless unless it is used. So once He fashions you into His vessel and fills you, you are loveable. Know why? Because He will use you to pour Himself and therefore His love out to others. Isn’t that amazing? What once was a prison of self has now become a freedom of loving. Does that give anyone else goose-bumps?
PUTTING TO DEATH “SELF”
Learning to love yourself without pride requires the process of first loving God back, second to love others, and last loving yourself. It goes in that order. How important is this? You answer the question after reading the following section of Christ’s teaching:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but, if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My Father will honor.” John 12:24-26.
Jesus was about to go to the cross, and He set the example right there: lay yourself down as I am laying Myself down for you. You can’t be used or productive in His kingdom if you don’t die to self. One thing for sure I have learned over the years in my relationship with God is that this laying down of self is not a one-time thing; it is a daily thing. Jesus said, “take up your cross daily” (Luke 9:23). Not once, not once a week, not once a month; but rather, “daily”. When you pick-up your cross daily, you must die daily. If you don’t, you will be lonely and stuck with only yourself (an eventual implosion of mental suicide). We don’t pick up a cross for any other reason; it is the instrument of death. So in putting to death self, we effectively put to death pride. We only find victory in surrender; we only find life in death to self; we only find freedom in submission; and we only find love when we learn to love Him and then others…all other forms of “love” are cheap imitations!
In practical terms on a day-to-day basis, we must ask our Father for the grace to think of others first, to place their needs before ours, to give whatever we can to help others. But most of all, to fill us with His love; for, by that love all things are possible. You can’t give away what you do not possess, and the only way to be filled with His love is to spend time with Him in His presence (prayer). He literally empowers us to “keep His commandments”! Once you begin to understand that you can’t keep what you don’t give away, you are well on the way of gaining the wisdom necessary to function on that spiritual level to live a fulfilled, blessed, peaceful, joyous, and pride-free life. But maybe you won the battle today, but tomorrow (if it comes) is just as important. Now you really have Satan’s attention: you have begun to do God’s work. Put on the full armor every day through prayer. It is absolutely crucial. Pride is the ultimate tool of evil; only our King can defeat that curse! So pride has a solution: submission…submission to Christ’s love for us and our love toward others. How Glorious is our Saviour!
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up! James 4:10 (exclamation point mine)
Prayer: Oh heavenly Father, teach me to pray! Through the power of your Holy Spirit, guide me and teach me Your ways. I lift myself up to You today, and offer all that I am as a sacrifice to You. Your will be done here in me as it is in heaven. Teach me Lord what it means to love others as You have loved me while I was yet a sinner. Praise You God of Israel, praise you Jesus Christ my King and Savior, praise the Holy Spirit that leads into all wisdom and understanding. I am weak Lord, but You are strong! Forgive us and teach us to forgive. Take us, all of us and mold us as the clay in Your hand. Take pride far from us, and remake us in Your likeness. Give us patience and strength to explore Your great mysteries. Let us walk together. I love you, and we love you. May our hearts, our souls and our minds be on You all the day long! You are worthy of all worship and praise. Thank you for saving me and making me into a worthy vessel for Your Name’s sake. Teach me to love so I can lose myself in You and in Your body. I rebuke pride and the evil one in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Peace be with you my friends,