The Bible’s Viewpoint
Is It Wrong to Be Proud?
THERE is a traditional saying that pride is the first of seven deadly sins. Yet, many today believe that such an idea is hopelessly outdated. On the threshold of the 21st century, pride is considered an asset, not a sin.
However, when the Bible speaks of pride, it is usually with a negative connotation. The Bible book of Proverbs alone has several statements condemning pride. For instance, Proverbs 8:13 says: “Self-exaltation and pride and the bad way and the perverse mouth I have hated.” Proverbs 16:5 states: “Everyone that is proud in heart is something detestable to Jehovah.” And Pr 16 verse 18 warns: “Pride is before a crash, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.”
Pride That Harms
The pride condemned in the Bible can be defined as inordinate self-esteem, an unreasonable feeling of superiority as to one’s talents, beauty, wealth, education, rank, and so on. It may manifest itself in disdainful behavior, boasting, insolence, or arrogance. Thinking too much of self may lead to a failure to accept needed correction; a refusal to admit errors and to apologize, back down, and lose face; or the unreasonable taking of offense at what someone did or said.
The proud may insist on always having things done their way or not at all. It is not difficult to see that such an attitude often results in personal conflicts of one kind or another. Pride of race or nationality has led to countless wars and the shedding of blood. According to the Bible, pride was the problem that led a spirit son of God to rebel, making himself Satan the Devil. With regard to the qualifications for Christian elders, Paul counseled: “Not a newly converted man, for fear that he might get puffed up with pride and fall into the judgment passed upon the Devil.” (1 Timothy 3:6; compare Ezekiel 28:13-17.) If these are the results of pride, it is no wonder that God condemns it. However, you might ask, ‘Are there not situations in which pride might be legitimate?’
Is There Legitimate Pride?
In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the verb kau·khaʹo·mai, translated “take pride, exult, boast,” is used in both a negative and a positive sense. Paul says, for example, that we may “exult, based on hope of the glory of God.” He also recommends: “He that boasts, let him boast in Jehovah.” (Romans 5:2; 2 Corinthians 10:17) This means taking pride in Jehovah as our God, a sentiment that may lead us to exult over his good name and reputation.
To illustrate: Is it wrong to want to defend a good name when it is slandered? Of course not. If people spoke unjustly about members of your family or others whom you love and respect, would you not feel indignant and impelled to defend them? “A [good] name is to be chosen rather than abundant riches,” says the Bible. (Proverbs 22:1) On one occasion, Almighty God said to a proud Pharaoh of Egypt: “For this cause I have kept you in existence, for the sake of showing you my power and in order to have my name declared in all the earth.” (Exodus 9:16) So God exults over his own good name and reputation and is zealous for it. We too can be interested in defending our own good name and reputation yet not be motivated by vanity and selfish pride.—Proverbs 16:18.
Respect is essential to any wholesome relationship. Our social life and business dealings suffer when we lose confidence in our associates. Likewise, a joint activity or partnership may be ruined if just one of its promoters does something that brings himself or his fellows into public disrepute. In order to reach objectives, whatever they may be, reputations have to be maintained. This is one reason why overseers in the Christian congregation must have “a fine testimony” from outsiders. (1 Timothy 3:7) Their desire for a good name is prompted, not by prideful self-exaltation, but by the necessity to represent God in a worthy and dignified manner. After all, how credible can a minister with a poor testimony from outsiders be?
What about pride in personal achievements? Take, for example, the delight parents might feel when their child does well in school. Such an achievement is a source of appropriate satisfaction. When writing to fellow Christians in Thessalonica, Paul revealed that he too rejoiced over accomplishments: “We are obligated to give God thanks always for you, brothers, as it is fitting, because your faith is growing exceedingly and the love of each and all of you is increasing one toward the other. As a result we ourselves take pride in you among the congregations of God because of your endurance and faith in all your persecutions and the tribulations that you are bearing.” (2 Thessalonians 1:3, 4) Yes, the natural tendency is to feel delight at the achievements of loved ones. So, what distinguishes pride that is wrong from pride that is right?
It is not improper to want to maintain our personal reputation, to succeed, and to be happy with such success. However, self-exaltation, haughtiness, and boasting about self or others are things that God condemns. It would indeed be sad if any began to get “puffed up” with pride or to ‘think more of themselves than is necessary.’ Christians have no room for pride or for boasting in anyone or anything but Jehovah God and what he has done for them. (1 Corinthians 4:6, 7; Romans 12:3) The prophet Jeremiah gives us a fine principle to follow: “Let the one bragging about himself brag about himself because of this very thing, the having of insight and the having of knowledge of me, that I am Jehovah, the One exercising loving-kindness, justice and righteousness in the earth.”—Jeremiah 9:24.
[Picture on page 20]
“Pope Innocent X,” by Don Diego Rodríguez de Silva Velázquez
Scala/Art Resource, NY