Pride can be a dangerous emotion in the context of relationships and marriage. This topic pops up again and again in podcasts and books I’m reading as well as books I’ve studied in the past. Why is it such a difficult thing to overcome? Each time I hear it, I keep thinking I need to write about this. I don't know why I feel that way. Maybe it's because of my struggles with it. Maybe it's because I see it's effects on people around me or how other's pride have affected me or destroyed relationships. Maybe it's just to share my story. This is a heavier post than normal, but one I can't get off of my heart until I share the words so buckle up!
I remember all too well how my own self pride took a deep root in the relationship I had that eventually lead to marriage, and how my pride assisted in that relationship’s demise. Unfortunately I didn’t realize it until after the divorce when I walked away humbled and humiliated that my marriage failed (for umpteen other, additional reasons) and I fell head first into this passion I have about studying marriage and relationships. I picked up the book Humility by Andrew Murray after listening to Joyce Meyer reference it one day. It opened my eyes and awakened my heart. It wasn’t an easy read, but man-oh-man was it insightful. I think most people do not even realize the effect pride has within their relationships, which is why I feel compelled to share some thoughts on it.
I found a great blog post on Patheos’s site that describes pride as “a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction in an achievement, an accomplishment, or in someone else or something else but it’s also been described as conceit, egotism, vanity, vainglory, all over one’s own appearance or status in life and not just something that’s been accomplished. It is an inwardly directed emotion that can easily offend others and carries with it a connotation that displays an inflated sense of one’s own worth or personal status and typically makes one feel a sense of superiority over others and can easily make someone look condescendingly at others.”
I couldn’t have said it better.
When pride seeps into relationships of any kind it begins to overshadow feelings of love and servitude. It makes us feel as though we’re better than the other person, that we should come first, that the other person should be making US happy, and that we shouldn’t have to help the other person with whatever task/chore. Pride allows us to exalt ourselves as being better than another as well as over God because we feel like we can handle our lives on our own without God’s help. It causes us to turn away from God. I’ve felt these things! I remember feeling and thinking that I would not help with this or that because he didn’t help me or appreciate me. I remember feeling I deserved better than this or that because I do this or that around the house. I remember warning after warning from God who WAS answering my prayers, yet I proceeded to make decisions for my life how I wanted it to go that went against His warnings and instruction. I knew in my heart that I needed His help and that I was going against His will for my life. Yet, I proceeded anyway thinking that I could craft the perfect life I wanted to have. My pride steered me wrong.
C.S. Lewis stated, "For pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense."
It drives me crazy to remember the prideful person I used to be. It’s not to say that pride will ever truly go away as we were born into it. We were born into a fallen nature that we have to work to overcome and it is said to be the root of all sins. Our lives are meant to glorify God and we’re to work to exemplify Christ’s love to others. It is by the grace and mercy of God that we get another chance each day to improve ourselves and grow closer to Him. It was Christ’s love for us that He gave up His life to cleanse us of our sins every day. Because of His love, we are to humble ourselves before Him. And because of His love, we are to show love and serve others as Christ served. Andrew Murray said, “Christ is the humility of God embodied in human nature; the Eternal Love humbling itself, clothing itself in the garb of meekness and gentleness, to win and serve and save us.”
How do we transform our minds and hearts to serve others in love as Christ served others? With humility. Humility is lowering oneself in relation to others, being humble with a modest opinion of one’s own self-worth, and believing the well-being of others to be of more importance than your own so that you serve others. Humility is being free from pride or arrogance. We must humble ourselves lest God will humble us Himself. Matthew 23:12 says, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
I speak from experience. My most humiliating moment in life (yet) was admitting defeat, acknowledging God’s plan for my life was different (and better!) than my attempts, and admitting to people that I had gotten a divorce. THAT was humbling to me. My picture perfect future crumbled before me. I was not perfect (still am not perfect!). My ex-husband wasn’t perfect. Our marriage wasn’t perfect. On my knees in the bottom of that pit as I cried out to God for His comfort, forgiveness, and redemption I learned how desperately I needed a relationship with the Lord. On my knees is when I l finally felt humbled, my pride knocked out of me with the harsh reality of failure. Jesus had always been there with me, waiting. I believed in God, yet time and time again turned my back because I wanted to craft MY plans in MY timing.
When you practice humility, keeping God as the center focus, and serving others in love, you begin to grow. You begin to see that marriage and relationships are not about making yourself happy day in and day out. Marriage creates a union between two people to form a life-long team. You have a partner who loves and supports you in your dreams and endeavors, as well as the dreams you create for your marriage’s goals. You are called to walk in love, and therefore to ask yourself daily what you can do for your spouse NOT what can they do for you. You are to build up your spouse to be the best version of themselves that God has called them to be. That is love. That is what marriage is about. Whether your dreams are to start a family, build a business, climb a mountain, run a race, retire in another state, or travel the world – whatever they are, you work together as a team. You serve them, they serve you. A heart of humility acknowledges that marriage can require self-sacrifice, and sometimes that requirement takes MUCH longer than we think we can tolerate.
But, God has a bigger plan for us. If we seek Him first, learn His ways, and humble our pride then the patience we need will fill our hearts and the pieces of character He fills us with will fall in to place to allow us to have better marriages and relationships with others. Isn't that what we all want anyway? Let us become the torch, lighting the paths not only for our future, but for our children and generations to come.
Perhaps I am a hopeless romantic, but I believe it is possible. Do you?
I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences as well. I know this was a heavy topic, but hopefully inspiring. I am ever so grateful for the person I have become because of my experiences and hope that by sharing them someone else may have self reflection and revelations as well. Life is an interesting journey, and we're always growing and learning. That is for certain! If we focus on loving our spouses, significant others, family, and friends to the best of our ability regardless of what they can do for us, we will find a fulfilling joy inside to see them happy as well as fulfill Christ's commandments for us. It's a win-win. ;)
You can find a list of the books I've read regarding marriage and relationships here, as well as Andrew Murray's book Humility.
Food for thought:
Uprooting the Stem of Sin - article by Joyce Meyer
How to Resist Pride in Your Life - video by Jimmy Evans @ Marriage Today
The Secret of a Great Marriage - article by Jimmy Evans @ Marriage Today