Yesterday, my pastor preached about pride, working from the book of Proverbs (which has a lot to say about the subject). I’ve been thinking about the ways that I tend to be prideful. I have a sneaky, backwards type of passive-aggressive pride that is hard for me to counteract.
See, as I was growing up, I somehow became convinced that the “Christian” thing to do is to look for reasons to think less of yourself, to put yourself down, so that you are humble and not prideful. So if someone complimented me for something like a musical performance or a drawing, it made me very uncomfortable; I had to think of a way that what I had done was flawed.
Later, I learned that it’s not really polite to refuse to accept compliments; that’s like telling the other person they have bad judgment. So I would say “Thank you” for the compliment, but I still believed that I had to internally dismiss it.
My mother says that this is actually false humility, which is still pride– it’s pretty hard to escape! But my mind says, in what way is it false to find something wrong with whatever I do? The Bible tells me that I have a sinful nature, and even the best things I do are affected by my sin. Something may seem impressive to another person, but it always falls far short of God’s standards.
It’s at this point that I realize something is wrong with my thinking, because there is supposed to be a difference between a sin, which is morally wrong and an offense against God, and a mistake, which is not morally wrong and is a consequence of being human and not all-seeing and all-knowing like God alone is. I often operate as though it is a sin to make a mistake– that’s what keeps me fearful of even attempting a lot of things. The reason is that I really, really don’t like being reminded that I make mistakes, because I am a perfectionist. It’s a form of pride.
I know this, but I am really used to thinking this way, and I’m not quite sure how to adjust my thinking even though it’s harmful to me. Let me use classwork as an example:
Practically every time I had to write a paper for college or grad school, it was an excruciating ordeal for me. I usually can’t write until I have a pretty good idea in my mind of what the entire paper’s layout should be, and until then, I spend a long time staring at a blank screen. A lot of times, I would procrastinate– not doing things I enjoyed, since I knew I was supposed to be working– but doing whatever I could to avoid being confronted with that screen. By the time I handed my paper in (late or on time), I wanted to never see it or think about it again. And that apprehension would only get worse with each paper I tried to write.
My professors sometimes gave me very positive feedback on the finished product, but I still felt very negative about what I had written (except for being glad the ordeal of writing was over). It seems certain that while some of my difficulty was the result of my own limitations rather than sin, surely some of it was due to sin. I could always look back and think of times I could have worked harder rather than putting off my work. In that sense, every paper I wrote was marred by sin, so shouldn’t I feel bad about it?
This is the pattern that my mind is caught in; it keeps me from looking positively on any endeavor for which there is a chance I might fail. I know that it is wrong, and its root is pride, because it’s a standard I would never apply to anyone else, and it doesn’t reflect well on God. But it’s a challenge to convince my mind of that.