I grew up in a home full of positive affirmation. I can still hear my mother saying, “We are so proud of you, Son!” (Just recently she said those very words to my brother Mike and me as we celebrated her 90th birthday.)

Is that kind of pride wrong?

Human culture, of course, encourages pride of all sorts—pride in your work, pride in your nation, pride in your school, pride in your lifestyle choices. Some of this kind of pride seems appropriate, even righteous. Other expressions of it are obviously rebellious. Where is the line?

In the Bible we see some “positive pride” being expressed, although that specific word isn’t used. In many of his epistles, Paul commends churches and individuals, seeming to gloat on the positive choices they made or their ability to stand firm under persecution. God Himself even said He was pleased with (proud of) Jesus Christ on two occasions—at Jesus’ baptism and at His transfiguration (Matthew 3:17; 17:5).

Where did pride come from?

Webster describes pride as “a noble self-esteem springing from a consciousness of worth.” There is a reason we have this consciousness—God made us in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27)! Psalm 8 declares that God placed His glory in man. And we know that as redeemed saints, we are children of God, heirs to His glory forever.

Our worth is found in God, which is why Paul spoke on multiple occasions of his “boasting” in Christ. Galatians 6:1-4 speaks of a proper pride—that which comes from a serving heart, a Spirit-filled life, a humble walk, and a commitment to carrying one’s own load. The correct “worth” we feel about ourselves is rooted in a proper view of God, and a proper view of our place in creation. From this righteous source, we derive our sense of identity and our belief that human life is particularly valuable.

The problem is that Satan has twisted our sense of worth. When we fall for his deceptions, we end up with self-pride, neglecting to consider the source of our “glory.” We get the idea in our heads that we are great, or worthy, or sufficient, or admirable … apart from God. When pride becomes self-focused, self-promoting, self-indulging, it becomes the root of our sinful rebellion.

As it did with Lucifer, selfish pride leads us to try to take God’s rightful position, so that we end up determining our own truth and glorifying our own decisions. Everything becomes about “me.” My ambition. My perspective. My rights. My opinions. My feelings.

Here’s an irony: We’ve all been around prideful people … and are we proud of them? Certainly not! They are spoiled, arrogant, and self-exalting. We typically run from such people. Like a rotten apple, they tend to spoil that which touches them.

Where did selfish pride begin?

Genesis 3 tells the story of how we human beings fell into destructive pride. Adam and Eve were being trained to function as caretakers of creation, the privileged sons and daughters of God’s eternal kingdom. Rather than embrace their exalted position, submitted under God (Psalm 8:1-8), they embraced selfishness and turned away from God. Quite literally, pride came before the fall (Proverbs 16:18)!

  • Adam and Eve listened to and believed the deceptive lies of the Serpent.
  • They did not wait on the Lord or ask for wisdom; they began to devise their own truth and their own wisdom.
  • They sought more freedom and authority than God had given them.
  • They chose to derive worth from within, rather than from God.
  • They rejected God’s leadership and set themselves up as gods, thus twisting and distorting their self-worth (Proverbs 28:26; 11:28).
  • Pride, the embodiment of selfish desire, is the foundation for sin. Sin was conceived, and mankind began to walk the pathway of death and destruction (James 1:14-16).
  • Sadly, Adam and Eve’s lurch toward selfish pride destroyed their sense of righteous worth, resulted in their expulsion from the Garden, and sowed into humanity the seeds of sin, which still flourish across the earth today.

Humility restores the fullness of life!

In response to Adam and Eve’s arrogant rebellion, God doled out the necessary judgment. There were consequences, which would unfold over time. However, God opened a merciful door when He gave Adam and Eve the hope of salvation and restoration. Since that moment, God continues resisting those who proudly defy Him, but He freely gives “grace to the humble” (Isaiah 57:15; Micah 6:8; 1 Peter 3:8; 5:5-7, 12b; James 4:7-10).

Humility is the path to the honor and greatness humanity was created to embody. It is the only way to be restored to our rightful place in the created order, and to recover our sense of “good pride” in what God designed us to be. It is the way secured for us by Jesus’ humble sacrifice, giving His life to pay the penalty for and break the power of our sinful pride (Philippians 2:1-11).

“I’m proud of you.”

My two-year-old grandson jumped into my lap and hugged me. “I am so proud of you,” I exclaimed, as I returned the hug. The words seemed automatic, flowing naturally from a grandpa’s heart. He smiled, “I luv ’ou, Papa.”

We love to be proud of children. When we see them excelling, or achieving, or demonstrating good character, or sharing with others, we feel “pride,” because we see in those actions the right kind of humanity. In those moments, they are demonstrating their worth as God’s image-bearers.

But we don’t want them to shipwreck their lives on the hidden reefs of selfish pride, which is where all of us naturally drift. I don’t want my grandson to believe that he is great apart from God, or to elevate his own wisdom above the Lord’s. I have walked the ways of evil pride myself, and I regret where it has taken me. Thus, I want my grandchildren to know God, to know real life and real honor, and to find the fullness of life God intended.

And ultimately, I want God to be proud of them. If and when that happens, I’ll be smiling too.