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Pride and Prejudice (with apologies to Ms. Austen)
By Brenda Lee Renwick

     At a church to which I belonged for several years there was such an aura of spiritual pride it was stifling – yet indiscernible from within. How is this possible? I lived in New York City (on Governor’s Island) for two years. One day I looked out my bedroom window towards the New Jersey shore and remarked about the brown haze that hung over it. My husband laughed and said, “That’s just what this looks like from over there!” Ugh! Perspective does change things.

     Spiritual pride is a sneaky thing, especially as it’s usually only visible from a distance. Spiritual pride shakes its head sadly at all those poor, misinformed and mislead people at other churches. Spiritual pride turns down invitations from other churches to their activities because “they don’t see things the way we do,” (in other words – the right way). Spiritual pride never asks itself if it could be wrong when someone leaves the fellowship, it automatically assumes that the other is in grave error and ‘prays for them.’ Spiritual pride speaks in piously grieved tones of all the other churches with doctrinal error – as if their own were the only pure teachings. Spiritual pride refuses to give up poorly attended activities or to combine them with another church’s; they have a ‘duty’ to provide the proper atmosphere, regardless of how many – or how few – are in attendance. And of course they couldn’t cooperate in another church’s programs for fear of contagion.

     Jesus prayed, “That they may be one, even as we are one.” Jesus never secretly felt himself to be superior to the Father or the Holy Spirit. 

     Spiritual pride can be an individual thing, but tends to duplicate itself and spreads easily among unwary congregations (particularly those of a fundamentalist bent). Personal pride is insidious. It has so many forms and disguises that it can be eradicated in one form only to spring up twice as strongly in another – or two, or three.

     Is humility the absence of pride, or merely the acknowledgement and abhorrence of it?
The same Bible that tells us that “pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall” also tells us to acknowledge our sin and be free of it. Just as an alcoholic will find no cure until he admits his condition, so will a sinner remain so unless he confesses his, and a proud person will remain prideful.

     Humility can be manufactured and false, but I cannot ever remember seeing ‘false pride’ except that which is misplaced. False humility is particularly annoying. When offered a sincere compliment, the falsely humble will proudly deflect it – making the giver seem somehow in the wrong.

     Self-pity is a form of pride; it insists that the ‘self’ deserves better. It asks “why me, Lord?” 
Vanity seems an obvious form, yet perhaps has an under layer of something approaching humility: self-doubt. Vanity begs for affirmation, sometimes demands it.

     Pride causes unforgiveness. “How dare they treat me that way? Me!” Pride causes us to forget how often we need forgiveness ourselves.

     Pride tells us that the sermon is for ‘someone else,’ and we picture in our minds that someone who we ‘hope is listening!”

     Pride loudly proclaims our own shortcomings – so that others will deny them and tell us what good people we are. And if our consciences should bother us after that, we can always say to ourselves “Well, I tried to tell them!” 

© 2003 Brenda Lee Renwick. All Rights Reserved. Contact Brenda Lee Renwick at brenwick@chesapeakestyle.com


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