Once I was riding in the car with a friend who took my wife and I to see an event. The event went well and we all had a fine time, but something interesting happened on the way home. Our friend who, about 10 minutes earlier was complaining that someone was driving too close behind her, was driving too close behind someone else. Traffic on the three lane highway was minimal at that point in the trip and she could have gone around either to the left or right easily. Instead, she stayed close behind this other car for several miles. After a little while, the car in front of us put on their breaks (despite having nothing in front of them). It was clear to me that they were sending the message to back off, but our friend didn’t get that message. She just kept riding the other car’s bumper. The car in front hit the breaks again, slowing to about 40mph in a 65mph zone. Finally our friend went around the other car, but not without telling us how stupid the other driver was for slowing down for “no reason”. Our friend stewed on this “stupid” behavior for another few minutes and then finally moved on with the conversation, never being the wiser of what prompted the other driver’s behavior in the first place.
I was struck by this situation. I thought, “Her self-blindness is incredible right now! First she complains, then she does the same behavior she was complaining about, then she yells at the other person like it was all their fault.” I shared this with my wife, who noticed the same thing but my wife, to her credit, quickly reminded me that I was being judgmental too. Guilty. I wanted to judge our friend for their self-blindness despite the fact that I have displayed self-blindness many times.
Originally, I wanted to write this blog about the concept of self-blindness and how we need to stop judging others so quickly and completely. Instead, because of my wife’s wisdom, the new message of this blog is the need to reduce pride. Pride told our friend she hadn’t done anything wrong. Pride told me I could critique our friend’s behavior in a blog. Pride told both our friend and me that our perspective of the situation was accurate and without need for self-assessment. Pride is why I think I’m right all the time and you’re not.
I don’t need to tell you how bad things can get when pride is staging a hostile take over in our lives. I’m sure we have also felt how subtle the road of pride actually is, so how do we guard against it? Below are a few of my ideas on how to deal with pride:
- Don’t fear pride. I say this for two reasons. First, pride is not always a bad thing. Pride gets a bad rap, especially in Christian circles, but it also serves a very healthy function. Pride in a job well done is what spurs you on to do it better the next time. Pride itself is not the problem because, much like anger, it is all about how you use it. Second, fear tends to cloud the truth, so when we fear the possibility of becoming prideful, we risk losing sight of the difference between healthy and unhealthy pride. The combination of fear and pride usually makes a person feel helpless because they are ashamed of the thoughts they are having and the fear keeps them quiet about it. Instead, choose to “talk the pride out”. Share your struggle with trusted family and friends. If you have a mentor, ask them for honest feedback about your pride. The more light and air you put on your pride, the less it can survive.
- Help others AND get to know them. I have heard others say that a great way to fight pride is to help others. I agree, in part. The problem is that volunteering at a soup kitchen without getting to know anyone might actually increase your pride rather than decrease it because you can leave there feeling “above” the people you served. The moment you get to know them is often when the line gets crossed from “above” to “with”. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples after they became like family. That is part of the reason why his actions were so amazing. When you get to know the people you serve or the people you are serving with, you will be humbled in the most genuine and surprising ways.
- Grab an ice cube. Our minds are lightning fast and sometimes they need to slow down before we can make progress with unhealthy pride. If pride jumps to mind quickly, we need to find a way to help us slow down and choose another thought. If you are at home or work and have access to ice cubes, grab one the next time a prideful thought comes to mind. Say to yourself, “I will not judge this person or situation until my ice cube melts.” If you don’t have any ice around, grab a handful of sand, dirt, or pebbles and let them slowly filter through your fingers. This technique helps ground us in the moment and slow our minds down. It can give us the chance to surrender a judgmental or prideful thought and let another take its place.
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