It Pays to Swallow Your Pride
FOR at least half a dozen reasons it pays to swallow your pride. This is not to say, however, that for the Christian pride must be categorically condemned each and every time. For though pride often arises from haughtiness and lack of humility, at times it has to do with self-respect, praiseworthy accomplishment or our relationship with God.
For example, the apostle Paul wrote to the congregation at Thessalonica, which it was his privilege to establish, in these words: “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.” Such faith and love on their part made proper pride on Paul’s part appropriate.—2 Thess. 1:3, 4.
The apostle Paul also spoke of some who took pride in God. (Rom. 2:17) And, repeatedly, in the Bible we read of God’s servants’ making their boast in Jehovah God and Jesus Christ, or, it might be said, taking pride in them.—Ps. 34:2; 1 Cor. 1:31; Phil. 3:3.
It doubtless could be said that there are times when family members may take proper pride in the qualities, virtues or achievements of one another, as when a husband is proud of his wife’s cooking. Or parents may be proud that children they have reared make a choice of full-time service to their God.
However, you may be surprised to know that, in the Word of God, pride is referred to in a condemnatory way 20 times as often as it is in a favorable way. Why is this so? Why do we need to be counseled repeatedly against pride? Because usually it is an ingrained form of selfishness that can so easily get us into trouble unless we are always on guard against it. Yes, “the inclination of the heart of man is bad from his youth up.”—Gen. 8:21.
Really, it is as though we needed to lean over backward, as the saying goes, to reject anything and everything that savors of self-exaltation or pride. How many have made fools of themselves because of pride! Worse yet, how many have perished because of their pride! Well did an English essayist once observe: “In general, pride is at the bottom of all great mistakes.” A modern notorious example is that of Adolf Hitler.
Most seriously counting against pride is the fact that it can make us enemies of Jehovah God, for we read: “God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.” (1 Pet. 5:5) Yes, in this sense “everyone that is proud in heart is something detestable to Jehovah.” (Prov. 16:5) No wonder that we further read that “pride is before a crash, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.”—Prov. 16:18.
Many are the Bible examples showing that it is the course of wisdom to swallow one’s pride, as when we are given counsel. A case in point was the Syrian army chief Naaman who was afflicted by leprosy. It hurt his pride to have Elisha’s attendant tell him to dip himself seven times in the waters of the Jordan in order to be cured. Naaman bragged that the rivers of Damascus were superior to the Jordan. However, he swallowed his pride and let his servants persuade him to act on the message sent by Elisha. Doing so, Naaman was cured of his leprosy. Surely it paid him to swallow his pride. (2 Ki. 5:11-14) So it is with us. When we are given wise counsel that goes against our inclinations, we do well to swallow our pride.
In this connection, we read: “Give a reproof to a wise person and he will love you.” “The ear that is listening to the reproof of life lodges right in among wise people.” (Prov. 9:8; 15:31) One who refused to accept reproof in earliest times was Cain. Jehovah God warned him: “There is sin crouching at the entrance, and for you is its craving; and will you, for your part, get the mastery over it?” Because of his pride Cain refused to listen and so became a murderer and was ostracized. (Gen. 4:7) Another example was that of King Uzziah. His military successes so went to his head that he sought to usurp the functions of a priest. When rebuked, he stubbornly refused to swallow his pride and, as a result, died as a leper.—2 Chron. 26:16-21.
At times we may be slighted or insulted in one way or another. What shall we do? Retaliate? Respond in kind? No, for we are not to render evil for evil. (Rom. 12:17-21) In such instances, Jesus’ words apply: “Whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other also to him.” (Matt. 5:39) One who refused to take a slight, refused to swallow his pride, was Haman the Agagite. King Ahasuerus had ordered that all bow down before Haman, but Mordecai the Jew, for good reasons, refused to do so. This so enraged proud and vain Haman that he was determined to kill not only Mordecai but all the Jews. In the end Haman was first greatly humiliated and shortly thereafter died on the stake he had prepared for Mordecai. Had Haman swallowed his pride and ignored the slight Mordecai gave him, he might not have come to such an untimely and humiliating end. (Esther, chaps. 3 to 9) Well do we read: “A fool shows his ill humour at once; a clever man slighted conceals his feelings.”—Prov. 12:16, The New English Bible.
Then again, it pays to swallow our pride and apologize if we have wronged another by some word or action. We really owe it to ourselves and the other person to make amends. As Jesus counseled in his Sermon on the Mount: “If, then, you are bringing your gift to the altar and you there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar, and go away; first make your peace with your brother, and then, when you have come back, offer up your gift.”—Matt. 5:23, 24.
Still another instance in which we may need to swallow our pride is to admit a mistake when we have made one. Nobody knows everything; nobody is perfect. So when we find that we really did not know what we were talking about, or made some mistake in judgment and so acted unwisely, the course of wisdom is to admit it to others who may be affected by it. This is especially important on the part of those having oversight, be they parents, supervisors or appointed elders in a congregation.—Compare James 3:1, 2.
Also, it will pay us to swallow our pride by always expecting less than we think we are entitled to. Thus Jesus said that when invited to a banquet we should take the lowest seat, even though we might feel that we are entitled to a more honorable one. Better it is to be asked to go to a more honorable seat than to be asked to step down to a less honorable one.—Luke 14:7-11.
Truly, there are many reasons, are there not, for our swallowing our pride? It does pay to do so.