Pride: A Heart Attitude
One issue that we frequently deal with in biblical counseling is pride. Pride is a heart attitude that overflows into a person’s motivations, decision-making, and actions. Prideful people believe they deserve better than what life has brought them. They become sorrowful, resentful, and even jealous of other people and their successes. Pride breeds other sins such as self-pity, anger, bitterness, and hard-hardheartedness. Typically, people who struggle with pride will live life based on how they feel and expect everyone else to accommodate them and adapt to their moods.
Independence & Rebellion
Two key characteristics of pride are independence and rebellion. The truth is, we all want our own way about things, and we will do almost anything to get it. The flesh leads us to desire independence, and we rebel at the thought of being under anyone’s control or authority.
Because a prideful person’s thoughts are focused only on himself, there is no room for God (Psalm 10:4). The prideful person says in his heart, “Who is the Lord that I should obey him?” (Exodus 5:2). People infected by pride typically think so highly of themselves that they believe the world should revolve around them. The only thing important to prideful people is getting their perceived needs met. It may be an emotional need, a desire for attention, or a resistance to conform to social norms in order to be seen as an individual.
The prideful person truly believes they deserve better than what God has given them; their thoughts are focused on what they feel they deserve or don’t deserve. They think they are entitled to more than what they have simply because of who they are. They have a very high opinion of themselves and think their conclusions and opinions are right or best. There is little need for God on a practical level because the prideful person believes they have everything under control without God’s help.
Results of a Prideful Heart
The results of these sinful heart attitudes are clear, and none of them are good. Prideful women struggle with bitterness, revenge, conceit, self-pity, a competitive nature, gossip, slander, and vanity. The heart of pride brings devastating consequences that God ordains. The hardened heart is the greatest consequence of this sin.
Cure for a Prideful Heart
There is only one cure for the prideful heart and that is to develop humility. In Romans 12:3 Paul exhorts every Christian not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think of himself with sober judgment. It is difficult for a prideful person to recognize their pride. The flesh feeds rabidly on pride. There is no sin that we can conquer apart from a saving relationship with Jesus Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit.
A Christian woman desiring to deal with the sinful pride being exhibited in her life must begin in the heart. I would suggest creating a thought journal in which she would write her prideful thoughts, beliefs, desires, and actions. Of course, repentance and confession of what she recognizes as sinful pride is necessary! Confession and prayer are excellent first steps, but she must also take seriously the commands of Scripture regarding humility, a denial of self, and putting to death the flesh (Luke 9:23-25; Romans 12:16).
Because the goal is to become like Jesus in character and attitude, I would also recommend she examine how Jesus lived his life. Jesus was described as “meek and lowly.” Meekness is an internal quality that comes with humility. As a heart attitude, it is the opposite of pride. Someone who is meek in heart is not concerned about self and readily puts the interests of others before her own interests. This really goes against the flesh. It is possible however, for even the most prideful person to become humble. Humility is a fruit of the spirit, and God joyfully responds to those who desire it.
My favorite passage of Scripture regarding humility is found in Philippians 2:3-4. The prideful person must begin to look at other people as better, and more important than herself. The thoughts, desires, needs, wants, and opinions of other people all become more important to her than her own. She needs to develop a real view of herself that is based on the Scriptures. So rather than elevating herself and having a high opinion of herself, she will quickly understand how despicable she is apart from the grace and mercy of Christ. Humility will develop as she internalizes the truth that nothing in the life of a Christian is to be about self. It is all about Jesus Christ and him only. It is not possible to dwell on personal wants and personal desires while having a biblical view of self.
If you are struggling with pride, your flesh will fight against these changes. You should be prepared for a sustained battle against “self.” On the surface, the flesh appears to have the advantage. Pride, like other sins, is sneaky; it hides in unsearchable places and has built up impenetrable kingdoms in which to hide. These heart battles need persistence and violent warfare. You must never forget that these are spiritual battles, and you have a mighty advocate—the Lord Jesus Christ—on your side.
We Have Hope
It is an incredible blessing that the Holy Spirit dwells within you and is able to expose even the most hidden sin (Psalm 139:23-24). Remember, you have had many years or even decades of living in sinful patterns of the flesh. It is not reasonable to expect immediate, complete change. This is the battle of Romans 7, and these changes demand perseverance and reliance upon the Holy Spirit for the ultimate victory. These are faith-building times; times when you will see God interacting with your heart as you study and meditate upon the Scriptures and pray. These are not battles that can be won by fleshly effort, only by heart change. There will be periods of success and periods of struggle. You can exclaim as Paul did at the end of Romans 7, “Oh what a wretched (wo)man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (vs. 24, 25) and then the triumphant cry of Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus!” Herein lies our ultimate hope. Hallelujah!
More information about pride available here in a free brochure: The Heart of Pride