Is It Pride?

Is It Pride?
I played American football when I was a boy. For many years, I was one of the stronger, faster players, and I enjoyed recognition as I played in the back field. However, as time passed, some of the other boys’ abilities developed and exceeded mine. At the beginning of my senior year of high school, my coaches pulled me aside for a private talk about my position on the team. They asked how I would feel about playing on the line instead of in the backfield. I was somewhat offended. I had played five years in the backfield, and they were asking me to play a position I viewed as inferior. I declined their invitation and promised them I would work harder.
Elder Carl B. Cook.jpg

I regret that decision. I understand now that the coaches were trying to put together the best team--a winning team. Unfortunately, I was so focused on what I wanted that I shrugged off their invitation. Ironically, I broke my collar bone in a preseason game and missed the rest of the season. The young men I could have played with on the line excelled in their positions and received acclaim and recognition.

When I look back at my decision and the disappointment I experienced, I ask myself, “Was it pride that kept me from playing on the line?” The answer is, “Yes, it was.”

Recognizing the negative effect of pride in that situation, and in other aspects of my life, motivates me to try to better understand pride and its influence in my life.

What is Pride?

In his landmark address on pride, President Ezra Taft Benson described many aspects of pride. One central feature of pride is being in “a state of opposition.” The opposition may be to other people or to God.[1]  President Benson also taught:

“Pride is essentially competitive in nature.”

“We are tempted daily to elevate ourselves above others and diminish them.”

“Pride is a sin that can readily be seen in others but is rarely admitted in ourselves.”

“Pride is a very misunderstood sin, and many are sinning in ignorance.”

Pride is a “very prevalent sin.”

“Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion.”[2] 

Pride truly is a stumbling block. Nowhere is pride more destructive than in our families. When we seek to gratify our pride, it constrains our relationships with our loved ones and with God. It inhibits change and progress. It inhibits peace and happiness. Pride is also a stumbling block in the Church. As we serve together in callings, pride can hinder unity, as well as our spiritual growth. It is a stumbling block to establishing the Kingdom of God on the earth.

President Benson said, “The proud cannot accept the authority of God giving direction to their lives.”[3] He referenced Helaman 12:6: “Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide.”

President Benson made this penetrating statement: “Think of what pride has cost us in the past and what it is now costing us in our own lives, our families, and the Church. Think of the repentance that could take place with lives changed, marriages preserved, and homes strengthened, if pride did not keep us from confessing our sins and forsaking them.”[4]

The Antidote for Pride

The antidote for pride is putting God’s will above our own. Recognizing and overcoming pride requires humility. We must be willing to see ourselves in our carnal state, plead for forgiveness, and let our pride go. We must be willing to put “the team” (our Father in Heaven and His will for us) before our own selfish desires.

When I lose the Spirit and feel I am in a state of opposition against God or other people, I find it helpful to ask myself, “Is it pride?” When there is tension in a relationship, “Is it pride?” When someone shares an inspired idea but I don’t like it, “Is it pride?” When I resent someone else’s success, “Is it pride?” When I am not getting along with my leader, “Is it pride?” When I am not getting along with those I am called to lead, “Is it pride?” When I shrink from correction, “Is it pride?” I have found that inevitably when I ask myself the question, “Is it pride?”….it is.

it is
I am grateful for the Lord’s mercy and kindness in helping us overcome our pride. It is not easy to ask ourselves the question, “Is it pride?” but recognizing pride for what it is can be the first step towards removing pride from our lives. As we humble ourselves and pray for forgiveness and help, the Lord can bless us with insights and power to overcome our own personal tendencies toward pride, and we can be blessed in our relationships with God and with others. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has said, “Pride is a switch that turns off priesthood power. Humility is a switch that turns it on.” [5]

The Savior taught by word and example that the greatest among us should be the least,[6] that we should not elevate ourselves or seek for the honors of men,[7] or seek for riches,[8] but that we should seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.[9] He taught us that the greatest blessings come when are unified with God, with His purposes, and with each other.[10]

I know as we focus on following the Savior, we can overcome many of the pitfalls of pride and experience the fruits of the Spirit—peace, joy, and love.[11]We can experience the happiness and success that we seek in our lives and in our relationships with others. We can help build Zion in our personal lives, in our families, in the Church, and in our communities.

[1] Ezra Taft Benson, “Beware of Pride,” Ensign, May 1989, 4.

[2] ibid, 2

[3] ibid, 4

[4] ibid, 6

[5] Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Pride and the Priesthood,” Ensign, November 2010, 57.

[6] See Matt. 11:11; Luke 9:48; 22:26

[7] See 3 Nephi 13:1, 18; Moroni 7:6

[8] See Alma 39:14

[9] See Matt. 6:33

[10] See D&C 38:27

[11] See Galatians 5:22-23