As a musician, I have waged a lifelong battle with pride. Anyone with a talent or skill that is most often utilized on a public platform has inevitably dealt with this issue. And knowing that the Bible warns so strongly against having a prideful spirit has caused me to constantly be on guard against it, almost to the point of being fearful that I’m going to cross the line between confidence and pride. I used to use self-doubt as my tool of choice in determining whether or not I was being prideful about my abilities. I feared that if I grew too confident, it would allow pride to creep into my heart and rule my mind.
But what I realized was that by allowing self-doubt to be my gauge, I was making myself miserable and preventing any true momentum.
So how do you tell the difference between a prideful spirit and confidence?
I think the first thing to do is distinguish exactly what it is that we are referring to when we use the word, “pride.”
Here’s the tricky part. Pride is not always a bad thing to have. Yes, you did read that right. Pride isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Pride at its core is simply “a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements or the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated.” It’s completely normal and acceptable to feel pleased (have pride) when you or someone you love achieves something great.
When the Lord was giving Moses instructions for the Tabernacle, God said to “tell all the skilled workers to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron.” (Exodus 28:3) If those workers didn’t feel confident in their ability to complete the task, then they would have invariably questioned the Lord’s instructions and struggled with completing the task set before them by the Lord. And if they weren’t satisfied with a job well done, then what would be the point in having the skill in the first place?
So where is the line between confidence and pride? When does pride shift from simply a feeling of satisfaction to something dangerous?
Pride becomes a problem when it takes the focus off God and puts it on us. It’s a problem when we begin to give ourselves credit for something that God has accomplished. The key part of Exodus 28:3 is “to whom I have given wisdom.” We must remember and acknowledge that the Lord is the one who gives us what we have.
But how do you really know if you are operating out of pride or out of confidence? Is it enough to simply remember and acknowledge the Lord? Is it possible to give credit to the Lord and still harbor pride in our heart?
I think if we changed our verbiage, we would be able to properly differentiate between the times we are feeling a healthy form of pride and the times we are not.
To help fight against the negative aspect of pride, let’s replace the word “pride” with “arrogance.” Pride is a feeling that occurs when a person feels satisfied with his abilities or possessions. Arrogance occurs when a person has an inflated opinion of his abilities or possessions.
Arrogance is based on external perception. It’s performing so that others will notice and acting in order to influence someone else’s perception of your skill level. Whereas confidence is operating out of an accurate assessment of your skill level and performing well regardless of other’s opinions or acknowledgment.
A good way to gauge yourself is this: if you ever do something well and it hurts your feelings that nobody noticed, you were operating out of arrogance. If you want your talent or skill to be acknowledged by others, and you do not feel successful without it, then you are experiencing the negative version of pride.
If you are an excellent speaker or teacher, go forward in confidence, knowing that you are able to complete the task set before you. If you have a talent for dance or music, then don’t let a fear of pride keep you from performing confidently. Self-doubt is not the antidote for pride.
If you have struggled with pride in the past or if you are afraid of becoming prideful in the future, then I encourage you to do two things. First, acknowledge the Lord as the source of your talent and skill. And second, evaluate yourself and determine if you have an accurate assessment of your skill level.
Sometimes the Lord sets a task before us that is beyond our own abilities so that we are required to depend on him. But that doesn’t mean that the Lord hasn’t given us any talents and skills to use for His glory. Don’t let fear hold you back from God’s call!
“Then Moses said to the Israelites, ‘See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills- to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts. And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers- all of them skilled workers and designers. So Bezalel, Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary are to do the work just as the Lord has commanded.’” Exodus 35:30-35
Written by: Alice Lothman