What is common to all humanity? Well all humans have skin. I have never meet a human without skin. Some people skin is soft and smooth. Other people’s skin is tough and rough. Some people’s skin is light. Others people skin is dark. Some people have more red tint others more yellow. But everyone has skin. It looks different and feels different but at the end of the day it is skin. We all have it. It is universal. I think pride is also a universal sin. All humans have it. It looks a bit different in different individuals but pride is there all the same.
This has been something I have had to ponder. I have had problems with self-esteem. I have had problems with over-giving myself and undervaluing myself. I have had problems with self worth. These are all issues I have worked on through God, prayer, scripture and mental health professionals. Believe me being institutionalized in a mental hospital is very humbling. They strip you of all belongings. They even take your shoe laces. You are confused, sick, scared and they are patting you down like a convict looking for weapons. Then the lock you up in a prison with the name of a hospital and start giving you pills to take and you have no control of anything. Then they drag you out of bed when you can barely keep your eyes open to put you in a room full of other very sick people and try to make you talk for group therapy. My first group therapy session I completely lashed out at the leader and yelled at her. It is a very humbling experience. Mental hospitals are good for stripping us of pride. The only other more humbling experience I have had is feeling the presence of the almighty God. That brings about humility real fast!!
I have wrestled with knowing how to deal with distinguishing between low self esteem, self worth and pride. We do not want to be prideful but we also need a healthy self esteem. So what is the difference? Similarly when someone gives you praise it is normal to feel good. We all like praise. We often use compliments and affirmation to build our self esteem. But we also have to be carful that we do not allow these praise to make us prideful. So how do we navigate all this internal battle?
There are various ways to defines these things. There is much overlap so it can be hard to define. For me I have tried to work on making my self-esteem be related to who and what God created me to be. If I am a clay pot in the potters hands I find value and worth in what God is doing in my life. Similarly I place my self esteem in the beauty of what God is doing in me. Therefore all acknowledgement is given to my Heavenly Father. For any good thing in me is a reflection of his good work. Without his work in me I would just be a lump of dirt. Similarly I work to give myself self compassion and empathy for the impure things within me. Understanding that God is working to remove those impurities in his perfect timing. Thus again the removing of the impurity and product of holiness again comes from God not me. For without God being my potter I would have no ability to become holy in the first place. Other people can speak truth into our lives by giving praise to us thus bringing to light God’s good work. For me I tend to be blind to the work God is doing in me. I can get so focused on the sins and impurities that I do not acknowledge the good things. Thus someone pointing out God handiwork can speak truth into my life thus building my self esteem and glorifying God the ultimate source of those good things.
So what is pride? The ultimate source of pride is failure to acknowledge God as the source of the good things. Thus instead of giving God glory and praise for the good work you are giving that acknowledgment to yourself. So someone gives you a compliment and you receive the compliment without giving glory to God as the source. This is the ultimate source of all human pride. It is us steeling God’s glory by placing the value of good works on human talents, efforts and works without realizing that God is the source of those things. It would be like a child taking a cake to school. Everyone eats the cake and praises the child for bringing this wonderful gift. They tell the child, WOW you are such a good cook. You worked so hard. The child receives all the praise but never tells anyone that it was actually there mother that made the cake. This is what we do to God. This is he source of the pride of humanity.
So next time someone gives you a compliment. Receive the compliment with gladness by giving the glory to God. Let it bring to light God’s goodness thus building your self-esteem but also reminding you that you would only be dirt without God making you into a beautiful clay pot. Amen.