Love is...not prideful because Self-Ignorance is True Bliss
Have you ever wondered, “How in the world is Satan so dumb?”
I mean, it’s not like he doesn’t know how this whole story is going to end. He doesn’t even have to rely on blind faith as humans do because Lucifer has actually been in the presence of God Almighty (see Isaiah 14:12-15)!! And yet, he still thought he could rise above God.
Doesn’t that seem nonsensical? Absurd? Preposterous? Delusional?
Well…I guess that’s the danger inherent with Pride: It. Is. Stupid. Just in the same way that pridefully elevating ourselves is the least loving thing we can do for the friends who we say we love. (Just think about how backwards that thinking is to friendships!!!)
It is true that sin, in general, makes us stupid. (Or “more stupider” as my son and I like to tease.) The reason that sin makes us more stupider is because almost all of sin stems from Lucifer’s original sin of pride. And pride is blinding. It tells us we are right even when we are wrong. And that is sort of dumb - because pride is illogical.
Pride believes things such as: I am important, so I can do what I want. I am smart, so I know what is best. I am special, so the rules do not apply to me. I am better, I can do it better, and I understand things better so I should be in charge.
For the most part, Christians stay away from the more overtly obvious symptoms of pride - like the list of prideful thoughts above. But, let me tell you a secret: Pride is even *more* sneaky than these blatantly prideful statements. Pride loves to lurk in the “good” that we do as well. In our serving, talents, personality, and yes, even in our praying and Bible Study. And pride likes to show up in all of the important places, like our relationships with others. This stealth, in and of itself, is its own sort of darkness that affects us more than we would like to admit. Pride is the opposite of being a friend, because it is continually looking for ways to rise above another, even at the expense of someone else - and even in the “good” things we do.
Pride is duplicitous, and its symptoms are as varied as each snowflakes’ patterns. To try to discuss them all would be an endless endeavor. We know that thoughts, like “I am better than so-and-so” and the like, are the obvious soundtracks to a prideful person’s thought process. But, what about these?:
I have a purpose.
I am a Pastor. I am married to a Pastor.
I lead a Bible Study. I go to Bible Study.
I’m reading through the Bible again this year.
I’m a blogger.
I am so busy!
I have been praying for you.
Hmmm…? Am I saying that these statements are definitive evidence of pride? No, they are things we say in everyday life, of course! These phrases are not prideful on their own…
unless they are said in pride, from a heart that desires to be seen as more than simply what it is: human.
It’s less about what I say, and more about what is happening in my heart when I say them. What I feel about these things reveals my original beliefs surrounding who I am and what I do, also known as my identity. My self-perception (the things I see in myself) begs for self-interpretation (what that means about me), which leads to self-presentation (how I present myself to others). Somehow, in that natural discovery process, Pride, like a snake slithering down a branch, hisses, “Well, how important am I? How do I compare? How can I lift myself up?”
But what is it??
I loved reading the story of Martin Luther who, upon the birth of his child, wrote a friend to say that they had just celebrated the birth of another “little heathen”. Isn’t that the truth? We are born into the sin of pride, and that is the annoying thing about it: we all have it. No matter where we go, it is there! Because “Pride” is also an emotional word – it’s a feeling we have that is akin to the feeling of accomplishment. We feel pride. I mean, it’s right there in the definition:
We feel pride because it is linked to our identity of ourselves…to the inherent dignity we possess as a human being. Knowing our worth is not bad. In fact, God made sure that His Word is a reminder to His children of who we are, and that our identity was given to us by His act of creation, being made in the image of God; as well as the redemptive identity we have being adopted as His children at the point of salvation. We have an essence that is unique to being a human: we mirror the Creator. Christians also have an essence that is unique to being God's child: we reflect His work of redemption in the world.
We also feel pride because it is a part of the original plan for God’s design. Accomplishing a task has always been good thing. It is ok to be relieved, thankful, and proud of having worked something through to its completion. In fact, I think this was God’s design all along: otherwise, why did He create our brains to release a chemical when a task is completed. That chemical sends a message to our brains that says, “Task is accomplished! Rest from your work.” (And this mirrors God at Creation, when He literally said “It is good/complete,” and then He rested on the 7th day.) In fact, brains that do not release enough of this chemical are usually considered “hyperactive, disorganized, anxious, scattered” because these brains find it hard to focus on a task till its completion. (ADD/ADHD anyone???)
God did not design the feeling of accomplishment so that he could punish us for it. Nor did God give us self-awareness just to tell us we aren’t supposed to discover who He made us to be. I don’t believe in a tricky God. The Fall did this to our God-given sense of identity and accomplishment. Lucifer’s sin was pride - a misplaced identity based on an exaggerated self-perception, self-interpretation, and the desire for more important self-presentation. He said, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God…I will make myself like the Most High” (Is. 14:13&14). And Satan has been believing and selling that delusional lie ever since. What was it he told Eve about the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil??:
“…when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…” (Gen. 3:4).
Because of the results of the Fall, we have inherited misaligned identity, broken connection with our identity Creator, and a hijacked feeling of accomplishment that has been forever tarnished and twisted by this same lie: we can be more than what God has designed us to be (human, fleshly, dusty, sheep-like, dependent, limited, lost, in need of a Savior); perhaps we can even be our own god.
It’s there…that lie…no matter how much we want to try to “good works” our way out of its steel grasp. It is woven into our Fallen DNA. Lucifer’s grand delusion has now become the incessantly painful thorn in our side.
What do we do once we try to compute all of these truths together:
We are supposed to strive to “love others as we love ourselves.”
We are designed in God’s image, with unique identity and the neural mechanism to recognize a job well done.
We are born with “pride gone wild” because the Fall opened the door for sin’s gnarly twist on God’s original designs for identity and accomplishment.
God hates pride and is against those who lift themselves up.
Pride itself breeds delusion about ourselves, infiltrating our hearts with great stealth.
Because Pride innately blinds us to our own culpability, it makes us more stupider and folly increases.
I guess I could talk about how gratitude keeps us thankful and humble, or how trusted friends can provide a mirror of insight into our erring hearts. I could quote verses about Pride’s folly and warn you of all the destruction that can come when it grows out of control. Because all of this is true and should be meditated on concerning pride.
Since it’s just you, me, and the fencepost here at The Fronchard, can I just be honest with you? Even if I said all of that, 100 times over, for 100 days, at 100% perfection, you would still need Jesus to protect your heart from pride.
(SELAH!! Read that again, and really think about it.)
We. All. Need. Jesus. Like, A Lot.
Our understanding of Jesus proportionately determines our self-perception, self-interpretation, and self-presentation.
As with everything in this life, our theology will drive our beliefs, our beliefs will determine our reality, and our reality influences how we act in this world. Accurate theology says that our very existence is from God, that we were dead before God called us and gave us new life, and that it was through Jesus’ blood that we are even able to receive this gift of new life. From these core beliefs we can say, “There is a God, and I am not Him,” and “I am not my own, I’ve been bought with a price.”
Because pride lives within us, it holds an awareness of who we are and what we do (by design). A feeling of pride, in God’s original design, was to help us accomplish the tasks at hand…and it was “good”. But the Fall has resulted in broken access to our Source of life and dignity and purpose. Our sinful soul must be reconnected to our Source for all things, so that our dignity – the awareness of who we are and our purpose – is not left to be self-interpreted without the Truest Truth to guide us. God is the Source of our very life, our regenerated soul, our original design and purpose, our current sustaining force, and our eventual role in His future designs. Our identity, dignity, self-awareness, and self-interpretation have no other True Source, and they are yearning for fulfilment. Satan is happy to lead us into folly. (Misery does love company, after all.)
This is why guarding against errant pride requires a God who is crowned in our soul as the first and only Source of all that we are – from our very beginning to our very end, and He is the fullness in between.
Guarding our hearts from pride’s blinding destruction requires that our hearts be fully, continually, and repeatedly engaging in the practice of recognizing God in all things; looking for His presence in the mundane, gleaning from His Word an understanding of Who He is, persisting in our endeavors to know Him and to be found in Him. Who we are, then, becomes “God made me.” What we accomplish can be framed within the belief that we have nothing (not even breath) without His sustaining power. Truly, “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
The fact that this practice doesn’t just naturally occur in our hearts and minds is evidence of our plight. We are, indeed, predisposed to pride. And let us not be fooled, we know our Enemy hunts us down “like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Recognizing our position as the created, not the Creator is only part of the process. (Even false, mystic religions believe that there is another, greater power from which all things have been birthed.) Humility, the antithesis of pride, is contingent on accepting our place as humans and honoring God’s place as God. And without a proper perspective of who we are, it is impossible to truly love another person. Impossible. Humility encapsulates the persistent work of knowing Christ, so much so that almost without notice, we blissfully relinquish our desire to fashion who we are and who we are meant to be, with the dangerous intent to lift ourselves above others.
Our dignity, with our self-perception and self-interpretation, is then free to revel – perhaps even boast – in our Source. Our self-presentation, our engagement with others becomes a continual living sacrifice of praise to the Lord. “Let those who wish to boast, boast in this alone: that he truly knows Me and understands that I am the LORD, who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things” (Jer. 9:24).
This is the Truth in the face of Satan’s lie: God gives us our dignity. He empowers us to know Him, so that we may be loved by Him. This is our greatest accomplishment: to glory in our God – through Whom we have been given life, now and forevermore! This is our highest call: To know Him, this God who shows unending mercy, perfect justice, and governs us in pure righteousness.
In light of so great a God - as I gaze more at who He is as He reveals Himself in His Word, and in the World, understanding more and more who He is and the wonder of His presence – I begin to fade. He increases, I decrease. My identity and purpose are hidden “with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). And this feeling small – humbly accepting that He is God and I am not – returning my heart again and again to this stance especially when fleshly pride whispers lies to my heart – and holding this belief above all things - keeps the delusions of my own prideful ascension to godhood in its proper place: the pit of hell.
Without Pride ruling over my heart, I see others as friends to enjoy, instead of seeing them as footholds on the way to a "throne in the heavens" or as foes to rise above. I can serve them with a heart full of love for them and for a God who has loved me well.
For myself and my friendships, this “becoming-smaller-self-awareness” is a the kind of ignorance that brings true bliss.
ARTWORK BY: Lauren Garner of Willow & Stone Designs.
To see more of her beautifully creative artwork, check her out on Instagram @willowandstonedesigns .