1. What is the difference between "good pride" and "bad pride?"
Every semester I put a list of the seven deadly sins on a PowerPoint slide before my freshman English class. I ask my class to write a 300 word response to this question: "of the seven deadly sins, which threatens America the most in 2016?" Students often feel a sense of urgency about this question and I get sincere responses about how these vices threaten our country. I can't say one particular sin is singled out as most popular: envy, lust, greed, pride, sloth, wrath or gluttony are all reflected upon regularly by my students. However when students choose pride, they often qualify their answer to remind the reader that a "well, there is a good pride and a bad pride." Often times they hesitate to really get behind the idea that pride is destructive or harmful in fear of attacking "the good pride." I often notice that my students can have a hard time putting into words the distinction between the two.
The "bad pride" is clearly identified in the Bible James 4 states "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." If you read Proverbs 6 says that God hates a "proud look." In Proverbs 8 it says God hates "pride and arrogance." I paraphrase both of these, but both use the word hate to describe God's view on pride. I am assuming that the Hebrew and Greek words that the Bible is referring to is pointing out "the bad pride" or a destructive attitude. Pastor Andy Davis says this about this concept: "Pride is the root cause of all wars, all marital squabbles, all lawsuits, all luxury and poverty, all addictions, all parenting struggles, all church splits, all vaunting ambition: basically all trouble between human beings." Pride is could easily be related to the following: cocky, puffed up, conceited, condescending, egotistical, megalomaniac, self-centered, ethnocentrism, smug, stuck-up, narcissistic, and self-important. These could all be synonyms or symptoms of "bad pride."
Yet I wonder-----if this is such a gigantic factor in destroying humanity's peace and harmony--it seems "thing" is hard to identify. Whether a person is a thief is not hard to understand: Did he steal it? Yes or no. Evidence answers that question. Whether someone is full of pride seems to be up for debate----because it seems, there is good pride and there is bad pride.
What exactly is the "good pride?" I think my students who refer to the "good pride" may be referring to confidence. I am very confident in my parallel parking skills and discussing the career narrative of Dave Matthews Band. I am aware of my excellence in parallel parking and it gives me a sense of confidence. The "good pride" may be a sense of satisfaction of completing a hard task. This, like the "bad pride," is somewhat intangible and difficult to clearly identify.
Here are some more detailed questions related to the original: Does this hesitation of defining what is good pride and bad pride prevent Americans from confronting the issue of pride? Does a lack of a clear distinction between the two "types of pride" make people hesitant to identify and prevent pride in their own life? In a society where people are in need of confidence and competence, are we afraid that by attacking "bad pride" that we will mistakenly attack so-called "good pride?"
2. What are daily steps to take in order to prevent yourself from being an arrogant/prideful person?
Years ago when I worked at a Christian camp, I caught myself mentally deconstructing one of my co-workers as to why he was a Christian. He had a physical handicap, and I thought to myself "His handicap is the reason he became a Christian. His handicap makes him insecure, therefore he needs God." (This narrative of being insecure is true for me as well. I follow Jesus because I'm insecure.) I saw a weakness in him and I mentally summed him up. While I may be "technically correct" in thinking this, it would have been cruel to say "Did you become a Christian because of your physical handicap?" It was a passing thought, seemingly harmless. But I wondered, do I try to find weaknesses in other people so that I can feel superior to them? In this situation, the answer would be yes.
I confess I deconstruct people more than I would like to admit. Part of “deconstructing other people” is to be a critical thinker. It is to sift through the motives of other people and wonder say to yourself: "Can I trust this person?" Yet to always be mentally deconstructing others, I have found, can be a way of attempting to feel superior and assume you understand people when you do not. (As I heard once "deconstruct ideas, not people.") I think pride crept up in me and I wanted to feel superior to my friends. I can't fully explain why I needed to find a weakness in my friend with his physical handicap.
If I had to think of a strategy for fighting a mindset of pride towards other people, I think of Philippians 2: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” This directs me to think of other people not only equals to myself, but it says to think of others as more important. This can combat an attitude of superiority towards other people. To be frank, it is very easy for me to think I am superior to other people in certain settings. Philippians 2 goes on to explain how Jesus identified himself as a servant, which challenges nearly all ideas of thinking yourself superior to others. This passage directs me to answers on how to avoid pride.
Yet still------I feel I need more strategies for understanding this sin and also practical methods for fighting against it. I honestly don’t know if I have heard many pastors give practical steps on how to understand and prevent pride. I believe it is worth fighting against, as would any pastor. If Andy Davis, who I quoted earlier, is correct in saying that pride is often what all human conflict is rooted in, I would like to know what to do to prevent it.
Being prideful can sometimes be hard to detect and only understandable in hindsight. How does a person become self-aware that they are being prideful? What are daily steps to take in order to prevent yourself from being an arrogant/prideful person? Why is it sometimes so easy to mentally deconstruct people in order to find their weaknesses or flaws? Does thinking of others as more important than yourself risk the possibility that you will become a doormat to others?