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“Only by pride cometh contention.” This sentence is found in Proverbs 13:10 (KJV), and I see the fact in this phrase playing out in my everyday life, not only by those around me, but even, sadly, by myself at times. We see this in the verbal attacks coming from within governmental doors. We see demonstrated this in schools, in the workplace, in places of worship, and most sadly, in our own homes. We see the poison of arrogant pride. The four forms of pride I most often see are, what I call, prejudicial pride, “better-than-you” pride, false humility, and materialistic/monetary pride:
I define prejudicial pride as a natural inclination to disdain or look down upon another because of their race, religion, sexuality, gender identity, social class, or any other human identifier, and to believe that you are somehow better than them. For instance, in my country, there has been a 300-plus year history of racism against African Americans by some White people. This began by the importing of African slaves into the United States by wealthy landowners, and because of the imbalance of power between the slaves and the landowners, the landowners had absolute control over these slaves, often beating and degrading them to their own sinful desires. This degradation of African Americans continued until the 1960s with the Civil Rights movement. However, despite major positive changes in the way Whites and Blacks have generally treated each other, there still remains much contention between these two ethnic groups to this day. Virtually, every religious group has had some history of others persecuting them in some way. Many Christians around the world have been imprisoned, beaten, lost their jobs, and been put to death in a most torturous way because of their faith. There have also been many moderate Muslims who have been persecuted, harassed, beaten, or even killed because of their faith and because people have wrongly associated them with the cowardly actions of a few who claim the name of Islam. As you can see, prejudicial pride creates much contention, destruction, hatred, anger, and bitterness, and does absolutely nothing to cultivate understanding or even a sense of love and compassion for its targets.
The first thing one can do to combat prejudicial pride is to confess your own prejudices against others. Confess with humility and a desire to change your ways, as with this man in this video. The next thing to do is to resolve to learn more about the people or peoples you have harbored prejudice against. For instance, if you are rich and you realize you have prejudices against those who are in poverty, go to the library or order books or videos about how people in poverty live. This not will only probably awaken a sense of compassion in you, but also help you understand others better. Moreover, the more knowledge you gain about someone, and the more you understand them, the less likely you are to harbor judgment and hatred against them. Finally, resolve to interact with the people who you had previously harbored prejudice against, and do so as someone who is truly willing to be a friend to them, rather than treating them as just a “sympathy” case or manipulating them to your own ends.
Another type of pride, that also includes prejudicial pride, is what I call “better-than-you” pride. This kind of pride says that because I can do or be X, and you (in my mind) cannot be or do this, you are worthless, but I am entitled to unconditional respect and honor. This is the type of pride often displayed by narcissists, who often think of themselves as more special than others. In many workplaces and in some other hierarchies, the people who display this type of pride are often at the top of the authority chain (bosses and CEOs) or somehow have connections to these people, and think they don’t have to listen to anyone, even if others have authority over them. They think they are invincible, and are not accountable to their own actions. This type of pride can ruin morale and cause these prideful people to have a colossal moral and career fall, if they act in illegal and/or immoral ways, and are eventually found out by authority that they can no longer escape or denounce. Think about famous people like Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer.
The first thing one can do to combat this kind of pride is to realize that they do struggle. This may involve confessing and repenting (changing one’s ways and attitudes) of one’s pride. Another way to combat this type of pride in ourselves is to realize that everyone has flaws, and we are no exception. Also, we need to think about the many times where we have received mercy, meaning not getting the punishment we deserved, and grace, meaning getting the blessings we did not earn or merit. For instance, if you realize that you are tempted to think that you are somehow “better” than a co-worker because he or she struggles in areas that you don’t, think about the areas that you struggle with that they don’t. In evaluating ourselves rightly, and not thinking ourselves more highly than we ought, we realize we are often no better, or worse, than anyone else.
The third type of pride manifests itself as humility, but is really pride all the same. This is what I call false humility. False humility is degrading oneself in a way that exhibits that you think you are hopeless to ever change or get better. I admit that I sometimes struggle with this because of my depression. The reason why this is a form of pride is because false humility says that you are so special that mercy, grace, and love cannot change or touch you, so I don’t need or I can’t get proper help. This is not only pride because of the apparent twisted, entitlement attitude towards not getting help, but because of how it manifests itself as humility. When someone says to you, “Everyone likes you,” and in your insecurities, you say, “They are only pretending to like me. No one will would ever really love or like a lousy person like me.” you are demonstrating false humility.
The first thing one can do to combat this kind of pride is to realize the implications of what you are saying and to realize that you have a problem. Then, you should also try to look at yourself outside of your own negative self-focus lenses, and through what others really are thinking about you. If you don’t really know what people think of you, ask! However, do it in a subtle way, and not in a pushy, insecure way. Also, realize that whatever flaws you see within yourself, know that there is always hope of change as long as you don’t give up. It may be a difficult and long road to change, but with enough determination and hard work, you CAN change.
The fourth type of pride is pride in material things and in one’s wealth. This manifests itself in one bragging about the stuff and/or the money one has. They take very good care of the stuff they own, but to the exclusion to taking care of or loving their family and/or those around them. The reason why this type of pride is so harmful is because its focus is on things that won’t last very long, and it excludes the people that are often much more relevant. Some ways you can combat this type of pride is by being able to let go of some of the things you own, and by being generous and willing to share what you have with others. Another way you can combat this type of pride is to focus more on cultivating relationships with others, and less time on material things. For instance, instead of playing games on your smartphone at dinnertime, take time to talk to those around you.
As you can see, prejudicial pride, better-than-you pride, false humility, and materialistic pride are all common, but harmful forms of pride that often creates destruction, contention, anger, bitterness, and despair when no longer fed the way it wants to be. This way to get rid of these symptoms is addressing the root problem of pride.