When we think of pride, we often picture someone with an inflated ego and self-confidence to spare. We all have those friends who love being the center of attention, are unapologetic when it comes to gossip, and have no reason to feel badly about themselves. People with these qualities are the ones we often label as “self-centered” or “prideful,” but what about those who view themselves as less than others and constantly tear down their self-worth? Ironically, one with this attitude can be considered just as prideful as the person who thinks they can do no wrong.
While I wouldn’t personally consider myself an obviously prideful individual, I too am guilty of having continuous negative thoughts about myself. Not only is it self-deprecating and repels company, it’s exhausting. But why is this considered pride? Can’t thinking less of one’s self be seen as a form of humility? In fact, the dictionary actually defines humility as “a modest or low view of one’s importance.” Well, yes, but if you really think about it, low self-esteem is part of self-centeredness and self-centeredness is a form of pride. “Let each of you not look not only to his interests, but also to the interests of others,” says Philippians 4. This verse is just one of the many responses from the Bible regarding self-centeredness. Even in speaking of ourselves negatively, we are putting our concerns before others, which is unbiblical.
“When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom,” Proverbs 11:2. Wouldn’t people who view themselves as lowly be considered people of humble character? Well, yes and no. Putting others before oneself is not an inward examination with outward action as an afterthought, but an experience in which an individual thinks of others first, with himself as an afterthought. To go even further, hating oneself is truly a twisted way to view humility, “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the Church,” Ephesians 5:29.
So, how are we to find our place as Christians within the midst of this ever-difficult dichotomy we call pride and humility? It’s safe to say that it’s not easy, especially for a college student. For this is the time when expectations are at their highest while self-esteem is at its lowest. As I stated before, I am often the epitome of low self-esteem, and my perfectionist tendencies don’t do anything but accentuate the negative way I see myself. But again, this is not how God intended for me to look at myself, it’s not healthy. Confidence is not unbiblical. In fact, God wants us to be confident! It’s only when our pride gets in the way that good confidence is overshadowed.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go,” Joshua 1:9.