On their 2009 album, I and Love and You, The Avett Brothers have a song titled “The Perfect Space”. If you haven’t heard the song, click here to take a listen. No, seriously, stop and listen before you keep reading this post. With a haunting melody and lyrics that speak to the soul, this song is as good as it gets. There is one line in particular that always stops me in my tracks and, occasionally, brings a tear to my eye. At the very end of this track, we hear the line, “I want to have pride like my mother has, but not like the kind in the Bible that turns you bad.” I love that line, in part because it reminds me of my own mom. Never one to seek the spotlight or put the focus on her, my mom carries herself with dignity and grace. Going about her days, she seeks to build people up and be the sort of person that makes everyone else feel a little better about themselves. You all know this, but being that sort of person in the world isn’t easy. It is tough work, and it happens, in part, because you were taught to have pride in who God created you to be on this earth. She always taught me to be proud of who I was, but also to live in such a way that I could ensure I was proud of who I was becoming. While I know this is a bit of an overstatement, but I think there are a lot more women who model that sort of pride. Unfortunately, it takes men a little longer to get to that place in life.
Proverbs 16:18 is one of the most well-known of the Proverbs. With words that have echoed throughout the ages, we read that “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” So, on the one hand, there is a pride that helps us to recognize our own dignity and worth, but there is also another sort of pride that consumes us and make us think we are better, more righteous, than other people. The way of pride described by the Proverbs causes you to look down on other people because they are different than you. It might be a different race, a different political party, a different tax bracket, or a million other reasons. And what we learn in this one sentence is that living this way in the world will ultimately lead to your destruction. This is true for individuals. It is true for families. It is true for collective groups of people.
In these strange days of 2021, I sometimes worry that too many of us have chosen to live with the sort of pride that Proverbs warns us against. My friends, you need to know that the way of anger and arrogance, selfishness and self-righteousness will not win the day. They do not lead to life, in fact, they lead to death and destruction. Unfortunately, we are watching first hand, as too many people choose to die a slow and pitiful death, not a death of the body, but the death of the soul. And it’s all because of pride.
There are two sorts of pride in this world. One opens our eyes so that we can see the goodness of God that is all around us. It instills in us a pride that gives dignity and grace to everyone we meet. It’s the “pride that my mother has”. And, well, the other way leads to destruction. It leads you to see the world as a small and closed place, filled with people who don’t deserve your time or your love. Someone once said that the second way of pride is like a wide road, it’s easy to travel and there are lots of people on that way, but it will lead to your destruction (Hint: Jesus said it in the Sermon on the Mount). It’s the pride that leads to your fall. It’s the “Kind in the Bible that turns you bad”.
Which way will you choose?