My Life and Death Fight with Pride

We are broken people. We know this. There is no hiding that fact, even though we try. We dress it up and we give our brokenness more pleasant-sounding names: We are “messy.” We are “flawed.” We do this to minimize just how broken we really are. And at the center of our brokenness, we find pride; Self-righteous, self-serving pride. Our fight with pride is perhaps the most difficult yet the most important battle we face throughout our lives.

Self-righteous. Self-reliant. Vain. Our pride is all these things and more. It is ugly, false, and sinful. It is the most dangerous of all sins because it tells us we do not need a Savior. Pride convinces us that we are enough. It whispers to us that we are all we need. Perhaps I am alone in this fight with pride or maybe this is something most of  us battle.


fight with pride

I am not enough.

I fully recognize my depravity. It is on display every day. At a young age, I knew I did not have it in me to find redemption on my own. I needed a Savior. God’s great gift of grace was my only hope. I accepted that great gift by faith; acknowledging my absolute lack of hope without it.

Yet, somewhere along the way, I have slowly convinced myself that I am enough. I examine my life and I think, “God has done His work but I can handle it from here.” Yet, deep in my heart, I recognize the deception. No matter how many voices, both secular and Christian, that try to convince me that I am enough, I know they are wrong. I am not enough. I have never been and will never be.


My pride runs deep. I drape myself with delusions of superiority. I see the sin of the world around me and I say, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men.” I might not always show that side to the world, but it is there. It is buried deep but it clings to me as fiercely as a predator clutches its prey. I fight against it constantly. I hate its very presence. Even so, at my most honest, I do not hate it as much as I want to. I do not fight it as aggressively as I should.

It is my great shame and my closest companion. In those moments of greatest struggle, I cry out for help, yet I am terrified of the shape and form in which that help will come. I know it will be painful. I know that my pride will only fall at significant personal cost.


fight with pride

Trywyddo Ennyd

One of my favorite authors, Stephen Lawhead, has a few common themes he repeats in various stories. One of my favorite themes is the transformative heroic journey. That journey is both physical and spiritual. Every hero needs to be truly broken to become the best version of themselves. It is an idea he revisits often. Lewis Gillies in The Song of Albion goes through this journey. Aidan the monk in Byzantium does as well.

Perhaps the best version of this is Bran, the hero from Lawhead’s Robin Hood story, the King Raven Trilogy. It is in this story that Lawhead dives deep into the spiritual underpinnings of the transformation.

Bran is a rash and immature young man when we first meet him. He shirks responsibility and lives for the moment and his pleasure. Events transpire that force him to flee for his life, leaving him lost and at the point of death. It is at that moment an old druid woman, Angharad, enters the story and becomes the conduit for Bran’s evolution.

Angharad ministers to Bran, offering him healing and a chance to become something better. After he has survived the worst of his wounds, he rests. Angharad then sings a song, which is meant to awaken his potential. She describes this moment as the trywyddo ennyd – the seeding hour. It is an ancient Celtic concept of rebirth by the breaking down of defenses, leaving one receptive to correction and wisdom. If a person is willing to take the wisdom to heart, they will emerge renewed; they will essentially be reborn.

This section floored me the first time I read Hood. It terrified me. I realized then if I was going to overcome my pride issue it was likely going to be a painful process; a process I was not going to enjoy or even want. However, if I was going to win my fight with pride I had to be willing to go through the pains and agony of God’s pruning and cleansing. My spirit needed a reality check. It was and is a bitter pill to swallow.


The story of Eustace Clarence Scrubb

C.S. Lewis does something very similar in The Chronicles of Narnia. In the third book, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, we meet Eustace Clarence Scrubb. He is an obnoxious know-it-all. He is insufferable, arrogant, and mean-spirited. As Lewis so cleverly puts it, “he almost deserves his name.”

Eustace, like Bran goes on a transformational journey. His fight with pride is filled with magic, a dragon hoard, and the most painful bath imaginable. In a scene that is so profound that I will surely fail to do it justice, Eustace, who has been transformed into a dragon due to his greed and conniving mind, meets Aslan. Aslan brings Eustace to a pool and tells him to bathe. But, before he can bathe, he must “undress.” Eustace does the best he can, but it does little more than pull a few thin layers of scales and skin off his dragon hide.

Seeing Eustace’s futile efforts, Aslan takes over. The great lion digs his claws into Eustace’s skin and he rips. He digs so deep Eustace is afraid he will be killed; that there will be nothing left of him when Aslan is finished. The pain is almost unbearable. When Aslan is finished, the dragon is gone and only Eustace the boy remains. However, this is not the Eustace from before. No, this Eustace is changed. Transformed. This picture is at once convicting and encouraging.

God’s work in our lives is not always pleasant. Sometimes, He has to push us down in order to build us up again. Even more, He sometimes has to strip away the pride and self-righteousness with which we cloak ourselves. Like Aslan, He has to dig deep, peeling back layer upon layer of delusion, arrogance, and self-sufficient pride. And, like Eustace, the process is agonizing. But, it is necessary.


fight with pride

God’s necessary pains.

The Bible is not silent about our pride or God’s interventions. There is no getting around how dangerous pride is. As there is no getting around how much God hates pride. Pride caused Lucifer to rebel. Pride was the source of Adam and Eve’ fall. (They wanted to be gods themselves.)

Scripture has no lack of warnings about pride. James tells us that God opposes it. Isaiah tells us that God will bring down the proud. He will humble it. Proverbs tells us that God detests the proud of heart and that they will be punished. Pride is no joke. God is deadly serious about it. If you are proud, be certain, you will be humbled.

But, there is hope! God does not punish capriciously or with ill intent. When God punishes His children, he does so out of love. He punishes to correct, to instruct, and to sanctify. The writer of Hebrews tells us that God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness (Hebrews 12:10). The Apostle John tells us that God rebukes and disciplines those whom He loves. Our response should be repentance (Revelation 3:19). We are also told that God’s discipline if accepted with repentance and humility, will produce a “harvest of righteousness and peace.”


How then will I respond?

So, the questions is, do I want righteousness and peace or do I want to hold on to my pride? I cannot win this fight with pride on my own. I often fall into that trap. It is a logical fallacy to believe I can overcome my self-righteousness with my own power. Yet, I do it all the time! One way or another, my pride will be brought low. I will be humbled, whether through godly reproof or due to the natural consequences of my pride. For my own sake, I should cry out for the Lord’s reproof. His heavy hand of discipline is a wonderful thing because it is wielded with love and concern for my spiritual well-being.


Too often, I am Jonah. I am the Pharisee looking down at the sinful tax collector. I am the Prodigal son’s older brother. My pride affects how I see myself and how I see the world. It affects how I love. Pride is an insidious and damaging thing.  

Everything I know tells me God will deal with my pride. It is a terrifying thought at times. God has already dealt with my pride at various points in my life. He has reminded me how often I miss the mark. When I have grown too puffed up for my own good, He has been the pin to burst my bubble.

Yet, I still struggle. I know the process of reproof and sanctification will be painful. It will be difficult for me to see the good while I am in the middle of God’s cleansing work. Nevertheless, I trust His work. I trust His love. I am confident that God will complete the work He has begun in me. In my fight with pride, my only response is to cry out, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!”


Push me Down (Veiled)

I’ll close with the lyrics from one of my favorite songs from the mid-90s by one of the most underrated bands from that era – Plankeye. It has become a prayer of sorts as I continue my fight with pride.

How can I move forward from this place?… Of disgrace. 
I’m full of stone… Immovable.

Push me down,
Push me down, down, down
Push me down
Push me down, down, now.
That I might break in two, Suffer a chip.

Now all that echoes in the chambers of my heart
Thin silhouettes of your truth

Push me down,
Push me down, down, down
Push me down
Push me down now.

Create, create, create, create an opaque mess.
That I might break in two, Suffer a chip.

How can I move forward from this place?… Of disgrace.
I’m full of stone… Immovable.

Push me down,
Push me down, down, down
Push me down
Push me down now.

Create, create, create, create an opaque mess.
Remove the veils from my heart that once were torn by your blood
Remove the scales so I can see all of you and you in me

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Phill Lytle

I love: Jesus, my wife, my kids, my church, my family, my friends, Firefly, 80's rock, Lost, the Tennessee Titans, the St. Louis Cardinals, Brandon Sanderson books, Band of Brothers, Thai food, music, books, movies, TV, writing, Arrested Development, pizza, vacation, etc...
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Latest posts by Phill Lytle (see all)

Phill Lytle

I love: Jesus, my wife, my kids, my church, my family, my friends, Firefly, 80's rock, Lost, the Tennessee Titans, the St. Louis Cardinals, Brandon Sanderson books, Band of Brothers, Thai food, music, books, movies, TV, writing, Arrested Development, pizza, vacation, etc...

One thought on “My Life and Death Fight with Pride

  • August 15, 2019 at 6:56 pm
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    Phill, you have a way, with patience and persistence, of bringing us back to basics, and forcing us to look at ourselves and the to God. Good stuff here!

    Reply

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