“For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”
Though by nature we are entirely blind to the truth, when we choose pride, ignorance, or sinful desires we enslave ourselves to self-deception. We often think that we can choose any of these without this consequence, but that is just never true. There is a great cost to these things, and that cost is self-deception, harm to others, the stain it creates upon the church, and a failure to glorify God.
The Roadmap for “Self-Deception: Pride”
In this series on self-deception, we will discuss these three specific topics: pride, ignorance, and our desires. On the subject of Pride, we’ll break it down into five parts. First will be talking about the ways that pride deceives us. Then we will go on to talk about the “self” that our pride deceives us into believing we have, the evil that this is against God, the destruction it causes to unity, how pride and suffering can be related, and finally, how the world’s kindness is really all about pride.
For Part 1 on Self-Deception: Pride, we will be talking about the nature of pride in us, our desire for this pride, and how it is a desire we often choose to be led by, rather than being led by God. And how pride can become everything we live by: our remedy to life and even our identity and belief system.
Why We Love Pride
Pride is often one of the sins in our lives that we will continuously permit. We may be willing to loosen our hold upon certain worldly pleasure, even certain lusts, yet it is often our pleasure in pride that we are most resistant to lose.
Pride is the sinner’s high. It is the sinner’s false reality that makes them feel safe, great, and powerful. It is the sinner’s identity, image, front, and even their belief system. It runs throughout our whole entire being, and that is why we are so resistant to surrender it. Pride is often the very essence of our being, but we hardly realize it. It is how we function without God in this world, what we use to comfort ourselves, our belief system, and even our hope.
Pride is a false reality because it is always entirely based upon a lie. It is never based upon the truth. Pride is always built on a lie about God and a lie about ourselves. Rather than seeing that God is all in all (Eph 4:6) a person believes that they have in some capacity anything that only belongs to God: power, authority, truth, righteousness, goodness, love, mercy. It is here that these two lies come together: a false belief about God and a false belief about one’s self.
While all of us have the need to feel safe, significant, and protected, pride is a lie we attempt to build upon to gain these things. Rather than seeking these things within what is true, within God, we seek these things in ourselves, and within a false self. In this we lay a foundation of a lie and this lie is what makes us feel good. We believe we are better, wiser, stronger, braver, more loving, deeper, etc. And it is only this lie, this conceit, that is our comfort. Therefore, to remove this lie and conceit requires exposing ourselves to the truth, and seeking these needs in the only place they are truly provided—in God.
Pride as Identity
Once pride is founded upon these lies, we will then go on to make it our identity and belief system.
It becomes our identity when we take these lies that have made us feel better—though they are still, of course, false—and we fully embrace them. We take a lie like, “Well, if I just work hard I’ll be better than everyone else” to “I am a better person because I work harder than all of them. I deserve to think more highly of myself than others.” Or “If I follow my dreams/desires they will lead me to a fulfilling life” to “I am a person who follows my dreams, I’m a dreamer, writer, dancer, artist. Therefore I am significant.”
We turn these things from a concept that makes us feel better into an identity. This is done by a choice in us, a choice for pride. We are not satisfied at the surface so we pull these lies deeper and deeper into ourselves. It is done from the very evil nature in us that wants pride. Wants to scorn God’s glory and scorn our fellow man.
We build our identity both upon pride and for pride, not upon the truth and our real identity. With the world crying out about identity, the reality is that so many people know very little about themselves: they only have fulfilled their desires for pride. They have only drunk the cup of whatever lie they want to believe about themselves, and of course, this will never bring them to the truth about themselves.
As we take these concepts and turn them into our identities, we also turn them into our belief system. Make no mistake, the world’s ideologies only stem from pride and fallen desires (more on desires later in this series). We find safety in a concept, rather than God and obeying Him, then believe we’re great for whatever we chose, allowing it to become our identity, and then we project these choices to further our pride.
Preaching Our Own Pride
Once we’ve comforted ourselves with a lie and taken it into our identity, we further seek to fulfill our longing for pride by advertising ourselves—seeking to glorify ourselves—and we do this by declaring all our thoughts, theories, practices, ideologies, moralities, or philosophies—whatever we’ve used to build our pride. When we further our ideology in pride, it is never done for the idea itself, it is done for ourselves. That is why Jesus warns us to not let our left hand know what our right is doing (Matt 6:3). For it is very easy for us to give to others not out of love or compassion, but to seek to do so secretly for our pride. And He warns us, that we’ve had our reward when we choose this: “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” (Matt 6:2)
The world today is practically screaming with all her theories, methods, sciences, moralities, ideologies, and little practical advice. We may even be one of these people. We often think that if we’re shouting “for others” that we could never be considered to be proud. But these things can be done just as much out of pride as anything else. It is only worse, because we seek to cover our evil deeds with the appearances of “doing good”.
Make no mistake, people are not always proud because they have actually lived out these ideas, identities, or beliefs that they proclaim. The deception of pride is that it does not need truth to ever rest upon. A person can be entirely proud of all of these things only because it makes them feel good to “be” someone who believes them, and imagine themselves to be something, when they are not: “If anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing…” (Gal 6:3) Pride does not need truth; it does not use truth, it uses fantasy and lies. And even if a person does manage to live up to a thimble-full of their ideas, then they’re only all the worse for it. For they believe now, in greater deception, that they have the right to be proud.
To us things like identity or ideologies can look benign, but these can be some of the greatest forms of pride in our lives. All of this makes us very resistant to truly turn away from pride, for it is our everything. Pride takes the place of God in our lives. Yet this “god” is the very thing that will destroy us. It brings us down into great evil and brings us into complete deception.
May God Expose Us
Pride is our great enemy. We are too blind to see the truth about our own selves, our wicked hearts, minds, and actions. And too deceived to see the very real reality that God judges such wickedness; that this evil and deception are a danger to our very souls. “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (Rom 1:32)
Many of us today are deceived by our own pride. We think that a little pride is not a dangerous thing, and many of us do not even realize that the “good” we often imagine we are walking in is nothing more than our own imagination, vanity, self-will, and downright selfishness. The church today desperately needs to be stirred up against this sin—to realize the many forms that it takes, and to set her face like flint against it.
I pray that God may continue to bless all of us by exposing our pride and calling us deeper and deeper into holiness. Having discussed some of the ways pride looks in the self, in Part 2 of Self-Deception: Pride, we will go on to discuss how pride is a great evil against God.