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Recently, I received a phone call from someone I consider a very close friend. The call started the usual way our conversations do, checking if the other was okay, catching up about the past week’s events and challenges. However, the conversation soon took a more serious tone. My friend began to recount an episode that had happened the previous week. As a result, it had been weighing heavy on his mind and he needed to share it with me. He had been extremely hurt by me and my actions in dealing with a particular matter.
Now, my actions were not to intentionally hurt him, but I had not been mindful of his feelings whilst dealing with something that concerned both of us, and I had behaved in a way that had made him feel left out and undervalued. He had confided in me about this particular issue and I should have known better.
As I listened, my heart dropped into my shoes. He was not angry as he spoke, but upset and disappointed by my actions. He’d realised that over the course of the week that this was affecting his mood and his heart, and he just could not shake it off. So he decided to give me a call. Before long, tears started to run down my cheeks, I was mortified that this had happened and I was the cause of it!
As soon as my friend had finished, I apologised for the way my actions had made him feel. I told him that I genuinely had no intention to hurt him and didn’t realise I had. I told him what I would act differently and set about it the right away. By the end of the conversation, we were on good terms, so we bid each other good night and I put the phone down. However, I still felt bad. Really bad.
Over the course of the evening, I tried to put my finger on what I was still so miserable about. Thoughts kept replaying in my mind, “I can’t believe he feel that way, and for a whole week?! He must have thought I was so inconsiderate, and he has been such a good friend and brother, how could I behave like that? I should have said more when I was apologising, I should have known better…”
Thoughts like these bombarded my mind as I played back the particularly painful parts of the conversation. I was really torn up and my thoughts just seemed to be making me feel worse. The worst part is that I couldn’t make it stop. I went to bed, woke up the next day and the heaviness was still there. Why?
After spending some alone time with God, the Holy Spirit put His finger on the reason that I was still upset about what had happened.
My sadness about having hurt a precious friend was being overshadowed by a different pain. I was troubled because I felt my reputation had been wounded. I couldn’t stomach the fact this brother that may have thought of me in a bad light. I prided myself on being considerate, thoughtful and understanding. I mean, everyone knows that about me, right? And for that week, and maybe longer (!) someone I valued thought less of me.
I wasn’t upset for him any more. I was upset for me. Me and my reputation. I was good and believed that everyone should think so.
Had I forgotten that my righteousness is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6)? That all my goodness is from God? That all my redeeming qualities are actually because I am trying to emulate Jesus, because He is the Source of all that is good. That it is His Holy Spirit working through me?
I had certainly forgotten that without Him I am sinful, selfish, self-interested, self-serving and self-involved. And this is true of us all. Without Him, we are deserving of His judgement and wrath. My reaction had showed me that I had begun to take pride and glory is something which came from and belonged only to God.
Pride is the most subtle of sins, because it can enter our hearts undetected, whilst we believe we are serving God, serving people and doing the right thing. But in reality, our hearts serve from a place of pride and self-importance.
We are good only because our God is great. And don’t let anyone deceive you. And I mean that; any contrary teaching to this is deception. It’s popular – but it is a deception and a lie the enemy has crafted to send many “good” people to hell who believe they have no need for Christ (Colossians 2:8).
We are all susceptible to believing this lie, and to start trusting in our own righteousness, like I had. Thankfully, God was merciful to show me where I was going wrong.
Be sure to remind yourself daily of the work of Jesus Christ to reconcile us to God. Remember that God is Holy and dwells in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16), and that we could never, ever meet His requirements outside of the work of Jesus Christ. Don’t forget that He calls us to be perfect (Matthew 5:48), and we can never attain those standards without the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in us and the washing of The Word (Ephesians 5:25-27).
Mediating on these truths will help to keep our wandering hearts in check and prevent the creeping poison of pride from killing our lives.