Sunday Thoughts: The Flip Side of Pride

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I’ve often heard it said that many of our sins are tied directly to pride, and it’s easy to see why. There’s an element of pride that runs through just about all the sins we commit. Our pride can drive us to lie, want what belongs to others, take what’s not ours, and so much more.


Proverbs 16:18 tells us, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” The Apostle Paul reminded the Corinthian church that we shouldn’t ever take pride over gratitude to God for our accomplishments when he wrote, “’Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’ For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends” (2 Corinthians 10:17-18, ESV).

Of course, humility is the antidote to pride. The Apostle Peter wrote in his first letter, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5, ESV). This isn’t a false modesty that looks more performative than anything else. As Paul urged the Philippian congregation, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4, ESV).

But have you ever thought about the flip side of pride? It’s a similar sin with a different twist on it: self-pity. Betterman CEO Chris Harper puts it this way (in an email — sorry there’s no link):

The fight against self is a fight against a two-headed dragon named ego. Our ego feeds one of two lies. Interestingly enough, they are the same two lies Satan has been telling since the beginning time: “You’re so good you do not need God,” or, “You’re so bad God could never want you.” Adam and Eve fell for both, in the same day. One minute they are disobeying God because they know better than God, and the next, they are hiding, naked, afraid to be seen by God.


In his book “Future Grace,” John Piper writes about how pride walks hand-in-hand with self-pity:

Both are manifestations of pride. Boasting is the response of pride to success. Self-pity is the response of pride to suffering. Boasting says, “I deserve admiration because I have achieved so much.” Self-pity says, “I deserve admiration because I have sacrificed so much.” Boasting is the voice of pride in the heart of the strong. Self-pity is the voice of pride in the heart of the weak.

The reason self-pity does not look like pride is that it appears to be needy. But the need arises from a wounded ego and the desire of the self-pitying is not really for others to see them as helpless, but heroes. The need self-pity feels does not come from a sense of unworthiness, but from a sense of unrecognized worthiness. It is the response of unapplauded pride.

Pride and self-pity are two sides of the same coin because they stem from focusing on self. Instead of focusing on ourselves, we must focus on God.

Related: Sunday Thoughts: The Danger of ‘You Do You’

The author of Hebrews reminded his readers: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2, ESV).


Paul told the church in Colosse: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3, ESV).

When we keep our eyes on Jesus, we understand our proper place in relation to Him. In another article, Harper explains that “the closer you get to the Lord, the more you realize how unworthy you are. You realize how far you are from His excellence, His holiness, His goodness, and His righteousness. The closer you get to the Lord, the more you should underestimate yourself.”

A proper understanding of our relationship with God will fill us with genuine humility — not an “aw, shucks” fake modesty, self-pity, or especially pride. When we understand what our relationship with God should look like, we can grasp our place as image-bearers of God and sinners saved by grace. And that keeps us humble and in awe of Him.



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