Pride Goes Before the Fall
“Pride takes a minor accomplishment and makes it feel like a major one.” - Ryan Holliday, Ego is the Enemy
Pride has been really difficult over the years for me to get my arms around. I look back and think, man, did I have a problem. I always attempted to work into the conversation what I had done or who I knew. This was a time in my life where my confidence was low. As a man of faith, I historically go to the Bible as a source of strength and encouragement and I would like to share a few of those references with you here.
When it comes to age-old wisdom, the Bible is a treasure trove. Verses like Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” and Proverbs 18:12 “Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor” send a crystal clear message of how God views pridefulness and humility. He will always scorn individuals who are full of pride and uplift those who are genuinely humble.
There are several stories in the Bible that focus on humble heroes who exercise grace and humility at every step, along with other stories of prideful characters who let their own ego get in the way of their potential for greatness. From King David, who refused to kill his enemy, King Saul (on two separate occasions, reference 1 Samuel 24 and 1 Samuel 26) to the prophet Daniel, who strove to serve God and did not seek riches or glory (Daniel 5:17), the Bible shows us the type of attitude that God desires. On the other end of the spectrum, King Saul, Nimrod, and Satan himself are famous examples of pride leading to a catastrophic downfall. Literally. Jesus tells us that He “saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” because the devil’s pride caused him to attempt to overthrow God and steal His glory.
Another Biblical example of pride coming before a downfall, one that ended in sudden death, is the account of Haman (Esther 3-7). A glory-hungry self-worshipper, Haman was never satisfied, no matter how much praise he received. The same could be said of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:30-37), who had to learn a long lesson in humility after exalting himself beyond his actual standing.
The core lesson we can take from each of these stories is this: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11, Matthew 23:12)
Pride can severely inhibit our ability to do great things. As C.S. Lewis said, “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”
In his book Ego is the Enemy, Ryan Holiday describes the isolation that pride creates amongst humans, saying “Pride leads to arrogance and then away from humility and connection with fellow man.” He explains that “Pride dulls our ability to learn, to adapt, to be flexible, and to build relationships.”
Have you ever felt like everything is about you? If you’re a human, the answer is yes. (Who is the first person you look for in a group photo?) The key to advancing past this mindset and avoiding this obsessive focus on self is to assess each scenario you encounter by asking yourself “What would a humble person see in this situation that I am overlooking?” James 4:6 tells us “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
I give you an example of a time when I could have been prideful and put my ego first, but made the crucial decision to exercise humility and stay out of the spotlight. I chose not to shatter someone else’s joy by trumping it with my own stories of success, and I attempted to remain humble instead of prideful.
When you are on the pinnacle of success, will you exercise humility and grace like King David, or will you proudly boast of your accomplishments and let arrogance send you hurtling to the ground?
Instead of letting pride be your downfall, follow Ryan Holliday’s advice of “Don’t boast. There’s nothing in it for you” and King Solomon’s counsel “Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth.” To put this wisdom into practice, connect with others who are on the same journey toward defeating pride at View From the Top.