In 1993, as I trained to run in the New York City Marathon, I decided to take a special training workshop being offered by the NYC Road Runners Club, of which I was a member. Since I was training to run a marathon for the first time, I thought this workshop would be a great addition to the training I was doing on my own. Plus, the workshop was being given by Bob Glover, a well-known running coach and author of many best-selling books on running. So, I signed up for the workshop and, for several weeks, made a trip into the city to attend.
At one of the weekly sessions of this marathon training workshop, Bob and his assistants took the class to a block on the upper east side that had a very steep hill. Our assignment was to start at the bottom of the hill and run to the top in order to train for some of the hills we would encounter during the actual marathon. The class was broken up into two groups, those who were faster and more experienced, and those who were a bit slower and less experienced. I was in the latter group. The faster group started the drill and then my group was sent up the hill. And this is when I learned the consequence of pride!
Our group started making its way up the hill when a classmate and I thought that they were too slow for us. Pride kicked in and we decided we could run faster than the rest of the group. So, we picked up speed and made it to the top of the hill ahead of the rest of the group. We felt pretty good about ourselves, proud that we had shown we were faster than the rest. That good feeling didn’t last long though as we faced the consequence of our burst of pride. Bob Glover came over to us and told us that, since we were so fast, we now had to move up to the first group, that group of people who were faster runners than we were. I did not enjoy the rest of that class!
Some forms of pride can be a good thing. It can be self-respect that is reasonable. It can be a confidence in others that is justifiable. In 2 Corinthians 7:4 (NLT), Paul wrote about this kind of pride when he said, “I have the highest confidence in you, and I take great pride in you. You have greatly encouraged me and made me happy despite all our troubles.” But there is another kind of pride that is a bad thing, a sinful type of pride that shows itself as improper or excessive self-esteem. That is the type of pride that the Bible warns us about. It is the type of pride that we need to steer clear of.
In the Bible, there are ten Hebrew words and two Greek words translated as pride that refer to an attitude in which a person is exalting himself. There is also another Greek word that refers to a person who is filled with egotism. These types of pride are sins of attitude, sins of the heart and the spirit. These are the types of pride that God hates. In James 4:6, we are told that God is opposed to the proud. In fact, God detests the proud and, as Proverbs 16:5 tells us, the proud will be punished. Jesus taught that the person who exalts himself, the prideful person, will be humbled (Matthew 23:12). I certainly felt humbled that day in my marathon workshop!
As I learned, pride comes with consequences. In Proverbs 16:18 (NLT), we read that “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.” Clearly, pride is something to avoid at all costs. Instead, we must choose humility. We must humble ourselves, putting the needs of others ahead of our own. While there are consequences to pride, humility brings blessing. God opposes the proud, but He exalts the humble (Matthew 23:12) and gives them grace (James 4:6). When we, in humility, submit ourselves to God, He gives us the ability to resist the devil (James 4:7). And God’s Word promises that when we humble ourselves before Him, He will exalt us (James 4:10).