Spiritual Pride Is Real, But You Can Undo It

Jess Holland • 5 minutes

Spiritual pride is one of the most harmful sins to your faith. Pride says, “I’ve got this.” It causes you to look away from Jesus and shines a spotlight on you.

Today, the more independent you are as a person, the more you’re applauded. Self-starters, self-reliance, self-sustaining—these are all ways to describe someone who’s “made it.”

Selfless, servant, dependent—these are how God calls us to live out our faith. It’s a counter-cultural way of thinking.

But what does spiritual pride look like? And sometimes it’s difficult to spot. After all, it’s something we’re proud of! Thankfully, we can sniff it out with God’s help.

What is Spiritual Pride?

Spiritual pride is what happens when we believe we’ve got God, the Bible, and the Christian life figured out. It makes us feel superior to others and often leads to criticism, defensiveness, and self-focus.

Why is Spiritual Pride a Problem?

Who was Jesus most critical of during his time on earth? Well, it wasn’t the “sinners.” Instead, it was the people who had spiritual pride. Those who were confident they were God’s favorites because they were doing everything right. They became mean, condescending, and bullied people who disagreed with them.

To Jesus, spiritual pride was one of the most significant problems a person can have. In one memorable story, a woman caught sleeping with a man who wasn’t her husband was brought to Jesus. Jesus does tell her to go and sin no more, but only after challenging the spiritual pride of those who brought the woman to him.

So, we need to be on the lookout for spiritual pride in our own lives. But how do we know if we’re experiencing it. Well first, if anyone thinks to themselves “I would never deal with spiritual pride” then they probably have spiritual pride. Here are three other ways you can spot spiritual pride in your life.

3 Ways to Spot Spiritual Pride

1. Unhealthy Comparison

Comparison leads to pride? Really? Yes, really. Your journey with Christ is completely your own. To compare what God has blessed others with—children, marriage, income—takes away from delighting in how He’s blessed your life. Comparison can kill your joy and replace it with envy. It’s only a short step from that envy to the grip of pride’s whispers: You deserve what they have. You’re better than they are, after all.

2. Defensiveness

Everyone messes up. But how do you handle the mistake or sin? Does it make you defensive and irritated that you’ve been “accused”? Pride doesn’t notice its own mistakes. It’s amazing at noticing everyone else’s. Just don’t dare notice pride’s flaws!

3. Self-Focus

Let’s get really honest—how much of your day is spent thinking about you? What you want, what you don’t have, what you need to be happy? How often do you consider the needs and perspectives of your coworkers or the cashier at the grocery store? The problem with self-obsession is it doesn’t leave room for anyone else. It’s hard to love God and your neighbors when you can only think of yourself. 

Okay, so we’ve lined up a few ways to spot spiritual pride—let’s talk about how you can combat it.

4 Ways to Undo Spiritual Pride

1. Pray for humility

When we ask God for characteristics like humility, He answers by giving us opportunities to be humble. You won’t just wake up one day without the urge to compare yourself to others, but you will learn to celebrate others’ lives without jealousy.

2. Give grace

One of my mentors always said it’s really hard to hate someone you pray for. If you feel defensive because someone wronged you, try praying for them. Thank God for them, ask Him to bless their lives. Soon, what was so divisive doesn’t seem to matter anymore. Grace can open the door for you to receive truth that pride might be trying to shut out of your life.

3. Practice reliance

God calls us to be completely dependent on Him. This doesn’t mean we’re inactive in our faith—it means we properly place our reliance on Him. Reliance = trust that God will take care of you. It takes the pressure off. You can’t do everything, but God can.

4. Become a student

Each follower of Jesus is unique and will understand God through the lens of their culture, experience, and relationships. This is good news because that means everyone has something to teach us about God. So let’s stop pretending we know it all, and approach every conversation as a student with questions rather than a teacher with answers.

Jesus shows us a better way of living.

The only one who can claim to know everything and live perfectly is Jesus. Yet, he didn’t live with pride. In fact he did the opposite. He lived with a humble love for others. He did challenge sin, but almost always in a hope-filled, restorative way.

Jesus invites us to live with the same kind of love. When we stay close to him, we learn a better way of life while remaining humble, forgiving, and always willing to learn more. So why is spiritual pride one of the most harmful sins we can struggle with? Because it’s the opposite of love. Stay with me. Humility seems like it’s the opposite of pride, but when you dig a little deeper you’ll find the true opposite is love. Allow Jesus to undo the knots spiritual pride has created in your heart. You’re not better than others, you’re not perfect and you’re not the main character of life.  

Humbly and graciously allow God to undo your pride. Jesus didn’t consider Himself too spiritually great to help us. He is love. And we can be less prideful and more loving every day if we’ll allow Him to work in our hearts.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV