When my daughter was 9 years old, she asked me when pride is OK and when pride is something bad.
You know, that’s a tough question to answer.
Part of the problem is that our English word “pride” has different meanings. Sometimes it means a feeling of satisfaction or happiness, and sometimes it means feeling better than others or like we do not need God. Most Christian teaching I’ve seen says the first kind of pride is not bad — we should have a positive emotion when we succeed at something — and it’s the second kind we need to recognize as sin.
While I think this double use of the word causes some of the confusion, I don’t think that’s the end to the problem. I think pride is also a struggle for most American Christians because our culture encourages us to make much of ourselves. It can be a very short trip from a positive emotion following a job well done to the sin of conceited pride. I’m not sure I even recognize where we cross the line.
But I do know I feel uncomfortable reading Philippians 2:3, 4: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (NIV).
A few verses later, we read how Jesus “emptied Himself” to do God’s will. As we ponder the question of pride, we should consider Jesus, and in this, as in all matters, do our best to follow him.
Your Turn: How do you distinguish between good and bad pride?