A classic line from Pride and Prejudice, outlining exactly the wrong kind of pride – and the prejudice it can lead to.
I am better than you.
To be proud is to have pleasure in achievement. It can be positive, to take delight in something someone has achieved:
Or right and proper sense of a job well done, or self-esteem.
But more often pride is negative – to have an over-inflated opinion of ourself or our achievements,; to focus on them rather than anything else about your character, often seen as vanity or conceit.
Pride, we are told, comes before a fall. Illustrated keenly by these readings.
This weeks lectionary offers us two options in Old Testament readings. One from the Apocrypha:
Sirach 10:12-18 (GNT)
12 Pride has its beginning when a person abandons the Lord, his maker. 13 Pride is like a fountain pouring out sin, and whoever persists in it will be full of wickedness. That is why the Lord brought terrible punishments on some people and completely destroyed them. 14 The Lord has overthrown kings and put humbler people in their place. 15 The Lord has pulled up nations by the roots and established humbler ones in their place. 16 The Lord has overthrown empires and completely devastated their lands. 17 He destroyed some so completely that they are not even remembered any more. 18 The Creator never intended for human beings to be arrogant and violent.
And more conventionally, one from The Book of Proverbs:
Proverbs 25:6-7 (GNT)
6 When you stand before the king, don’t try to impress him and pretend to be important. 7 It is better to be asked to take a higher position than to be told to give your place to someone more important.
Both take the theme of pride – the wrong kind of pride, and give advice on how to behave.
It is right to know what we have done well, and even to celebrate it. It is wrong to make that the be all and end all of our lives – and even more so to think it makes us better than somebody else. The trouble with thinking we are so important, is that it makes us see others through our over-inflated ideas, and encourages us to sit in judgement and prejudice.
You, and I, are unique, special, and indeed important – but so is every other person in the world. It is not our role to make others feel inferior, any more than it is right for someone to do it to us.
The problem with trying to impress others, is that we can lose sight of the real us, we can begin to believe our own publicity – and so might they… Which is difficult if it turns out to be nothing more than a lot of bluster and self-importance. No one likes to be over looked. I certainly don’t. But that means all the more that I should not be overlooking others and what they have to offer by shouting so much about myself.
Sirach reminds us that pride happens when we stop looking at God, and start looking at ourselves.
A sobering thought perhaps?
Forgive me Lord,
the times I stop looking at you
and look at myself,
how special I am.
Forgive me Lord,
when I look at others
through what I think is important.
the times I judge,
and find myself to be superior.
Forgive me Lord,
when I fail to see the special gifts you give to others
when I see my offering
and not theirs.
Forgive me Lord
for my pride
and my prejudices
May my focus always be on you