Prideful Vines

another superhero

I spent today morning re-visiting all the Facebook notes I’ve written since 2007. Though I started this blog just a few years ago, I couldn’t help but notice my passion for learning, growth, and writing since I was a lot younger.

One of my favorite notes that I often revisisted was written by worship singer Shaun Groves who wrote “Prideful Vines.” Whenever I felt a sense of pride from my righteousness and holiness, this post served as a salutary reminder for how destructive life could become. As Proverbs 11:12 says, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” Hope you enjoy this! 

I lay the strap of my guitar across my shoulder, pluck a pick from my pocket and cross the stage to the spot-lit microphone.

I tell the joke that has the whole table holding their sides.

I look out at my congregation of college students leaning in to learn.
Compliments flow my way afterward, admiration floods my thirsty ego.

I have the winning idea in staff meeting.

I open an e-mail from someone wanting to learn how I do what I do, and how I
do it so well.

And the seeds of the weed that chokes the life and humility and dependence
upon others and God out of so many leaders are sewn in me. The seeds of
pride.

Pride, C.S. Lewis reminds me in Mere Christianity, is “the essential vice, the
utmost evil… Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are
mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became
the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God
state of mind.”

But it feels so good to fertilize its seeds. So it grows. It grows because I
believe it’s not enough for me to raise healthy holy kids; I must stand
them back to back with yours. It’s not enough for me to have a car and
roof, I have to measure them against yours, neighbor. It’s not enough to
be given the gift of an audience; I must know the exact count and yours
too. It’s not enough to be a leader; I must be the leader, leading better
and more than you. It’s not enough to be talented, I have to be the most
talented on this stage, more talented than you. Essentially it’s not
enough for me to succeed; I must be more successful than you.

My competitive flesh is pride’s fertilizer. That very trait that propels
leaders into leadership, the ability to strive, to be a competitor, to
practice and push one’s self and others, that gift inside the leader can
become unhealthy food for pride. Pride is a blinding cancerous vine
binding successful leaders of every kind – regardless of how their success
is defined.

Years ago I felt myself getting puffed up with pride. I saw myself laying
the accomplishments of others out beside my own and appraising my
worth upon where my life fell alongside theirs. Do I measure up? – was
the constant question on my mind.

Thankfully I have an honest fearless wife who helped me see this pride
and I realized I’d fallen into comparative living because I was first of all
selfish, secondly competitive, and thirdly defining success by the world’s
standards – like corporations; not how God must.

I decided to define success internally, as God does, and not externally,
to see myself as already a success because I am in relationship with God
through Jesus, already perfect, clothed in righteousness, covered in the
whole-making blood of God’s Son. A success.

But it wasn’t long before I began to compare even my internal spiritual
success to yours. I started deciding who was and was not as holy and
loved by God as I.

And pride sprang up from the fertile ground of my flesh once again.
As simple as it sounds, the only weed-be-gone I’ve discovered for the
thorny thistles of pride is dependence and focus upon Jesus. To gaze
into the perfection of Yaweh, the infinite grandeur and flawlessness of
the Lamb. Then the prideful vines bearing the fruit of cynicism,
arrogance and unnecessary criticism shrink in the light of the
incomparable Gardener. His very nature, His immeasurable “success” is
like a spade digging up under my pride and casting it out of my life and
into the deepest trash can.

Like Isaiah, when we keep our eyes off of our success and the
comparative success of others, we become leaders who cry out with
gratitude and humility, “Woe is ME, a man of unclean lips…Here am I,
send me.” And we’re just another equal grateful rescued member of the
family of God again…even if we’re leaders in it.

Question: As a leader, how do you overcome pride in your life?