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The Bible says that we are to test ourselves to see whether we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). James says that we must not “merely listen to the word” but also do it, meaning that we should do enough self-reflection to determine whether we’re putting it into practice or not. Paul tells the church in Corinth to examine themselves before taking the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:28-29). One of the psalmists states that he has examined himself and turned his steps toward God’s statutes (Psalm 119:59-60). Finally, Jesus tells us to remove the plank in our own eyes before worrying about the specks in the eyes of others (Matthew 7:3-5).

Pride can slip under our radar if we aren’t careful. Unlike other sins with tangible, physical results, pride is more of a mood than an activity. It leads to sinful actions, of course, because there are very few sins (if any) that cannot be connected to it in some way. Some of its effects are a little harder to detect without a long look in the mirror. Here are some warning signs that will tell us whether pride has taken a foothold in our lives.

  1. We assume that people disagree with us because they aren’t as intelligent. Everyone wants to be right. We’re convinced that we believe what we do for good reasons. When it comes to an important issue, we assume not only that we’re right but that others have no good reason for being wrong. Why can’t they see what is so plainly evident to us? It can only mean that they are stupid, ignorant, or hopelessly biased—or so we think. 
  2. Our reaction to criticism is to get defensive or spread the blame. The prideful feel they are above the criticism of others. It may also manifest itself as the unwillingness to accept blame even when we are at fault—surely someone else is also partially responsible! 
  3. We like the spotlight. We all enjoy getting the respect of our peers and the admiration of people who look up to us. And who doesn’t want to be complimented? But this can grow out of control. Enjoying the occasional commendation can become a craving for applause. If this addiction continues to grow, we will eventually do what’s right not to please God but to impress others and please ourselves.  
  4. Not being an insider bothers us. Everyone wants to mean something to someone—it’s only natural. Pride has a way of twisting this into the expectation that we should be so deeply and broadly connected to others that we can’t imagine being left out of anything, from meeting for lunch to enjoying a juicy bit of gossip known only to the elite few.
  5. We don’t like getting advice. Sometimes we bristle when getting unsolicited advice from others. We take it as an insult, as if it should be obvious that we don’t need the advice. Rather than interpreting it as an attempt to be helpful, the prideful confuse advice with condescension.
  6. Justice always serves our interests. We don’t appeal to a transcendent standard. Instead, our feelings determine who is right or wrong, as well as what punishment, if any, should be applied. If someone wrongs us, we set the standard of repentance and restitution. Justice is never satisfied until we say so. 

Pride can be a difficult spiritual problem to diagnose, but the signs are there if we’re willing to see them. That means being willing to put ourselves under the microscope to find those little flaws that have the potential to turn into bigger problems. It isn’t comfortable, but it’s necessary.