This is part 7 in the Black & White Thinking Series. Click on these links for Part 1 (Intro), Introduction (Part 2), Part 2 (Biblical Lens), Part 3 (Grace), Part 4 (Mental Illness?), Part 5 (Depression), and Part 6 (Anxiety).
Let’s be honest, pride is something all of us have. I’m not talking about pride as in “taking pride in our work” kind of pride. No, I’m talking about the self-centered, self-aggrandizing, self-focus, all about me kind of pride. The kind of self-centeredness that all of us have inside of us, thanks to that inherited sinful nature all of us have received from Adam & Eve.
Our pride and self-centeredness manifests itself in different ways. At times it occurs in subtle ways that nobody really notices, such as in our unspoken thoughts. At times it can be disguised in our kindness to others, while we are doing the acts for our own benefit. Other times, it is seen and heard by others in comments, conversations, and actions.
While pride is present in everyone, all of us seem to have one or two areas that seem to be displayed more frequently than other areas. Authors Paul Tripp & Tim Lane, in their book, Relationships: A Mess Worth Making, describe many areas of pride that are present in our lives. They are self-centeredness (seeks attention & approval), self-rule (seeks to be right, in control), self-sufficiency (seeks independence), self-satisfaction (seeks pleasure), self-righteousness (seeks to be right in eyes of others), & self-taught (seeks to give opinion). Personally, as I look at this list, I see all of them in me, though self-centeredness and self-satisfaction seem to be more prevalent in my life.
As previously mentioned in other blogs, Black & White Thinkers simplify their judgments into whatever is good/bad, black/white, or right/wrong. When pride is present, admitting wrong is tantamount to being wrong or bad. And if you “can’t” be wrong, than you must be right and others are wrong. When pride reigns in the Black & White Thinker, self-righteousness and self-rule are often the two highest heart struggles on the list dealing with pride. The need to be right and to be right in other’s eyes lends itself to making justifications, excuses, blaming, etc. for personal actions in order to convince themselves and others that they are in the right (and others in the wrong). Truth be told, all of us do this, Relational and Black & White Thinkers alike. However, when pride reigns in the Black & White Thinker’s heart, the justifications, blaming, and excuses are regular occurrences. Additionally, if being “right” is considered “good” and being “wrong” is considered “bad” (heart), then the tendency to look at self as better and others as worse is demonstrated in bragging, insults, and criticisms (fruit).
Similarly, I had mentioned that Black & White Thinkers are likened to the Pharisees in Scripture who obey the “law” or standards. That is, anyone who falls short of obeying the law deserves punishment. The Pharisees started with God’s Law, and then added thousands of other laws on top of God’s laws so that the original laws would not be violated. When Black & White Thinkers make their own laws or standards in their own homes and then require others to follow them, they can become controlling through criticisms and conflicts, and they may look down upon others who don’t meet their standards. This occurs in emotionally or physically abusive relationships. Their laws or standards are high for others, and they can’t admit to being wrong, so their actions and beliefs are justified, excused, or blame is placed elsewhere.
Of course, it is important to note that abusive relationships are more likely to occur when pride REIGNS in Black & White Thinkers, not if pride is simply PRESENT. The presence of pride in our lives means that we are fallen humanity living in a fallen world. The reign of pride means that we are completely absorbed in ourselves and we are moving towards what psychologists would call narcissistic. In order to keep pride from reigning in our hearts, it is essential to recognize that we are indeed wrong (sinful) and that it is OK to be wrong. That doesn’t mean that we are to pursue wrong-doing, of course, but simply to expect it as fallen human beings. Our wrongness, per se, does not impact our value or worth as humans, but it does help us recognize the great love Christ has for us which is not based on our wrong-doing, but on his love. This is the path to humility. As we recognize and believe these things, and we seek Christ, he begins to change us inwardly so that pride does not reign in our hearts.
“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6, Prov 29:23)