Before we explore the effects of pride and humility on the human heart and society at large, let’s take a closer look at pride and humility themselves. Pondering President Benson’s landmark talk, “Beware of Pride“, it became clear to me that both pride and humility have two main components, how we relate to God, and how we relate to our fellowmen, as illustrated in the graphic below.
Pride Pits Us Against God
Those who suffer with pride discount or openly reject God and/or His wisdom, thinking they know better how to run their lives – “every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god” (D&C 1:16). Here’s how President Benson describes our relationship to God when we suffer from pride:
“We pit our will against God’s. When we direct our pride toward God, it is in the spirit of ‘my will and not thine be done.’ As Paul said, they ‘seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.’ (Philip. 2:21.)
“The proud cannot accept the authority of God giving direction to their lives. (See Hel. 12:6.) They pit their perceptions of truth against God’s great knowledge, their abilities versus God’s priesthood power, their accomplishments against His mighty works.
“Our enmity toward God takes on many labels, such as rebellion, hard-heartedness, stiff-neckedness, unrepentant, puffed up, easily offended, and sign seekers. The proud wish God would agree with them. They aren’t interested in changing their opinions to agree with God’s.”
“Of course,” you think, “but I’m an active LDS member, surely I’m not guilty of that kind of pride.” Well, do you attend Ward Temple Night because you enjoy hobnobbing with the ward’s “elite”, or, do you attend because the Spirit directed you to go, or at least, because the Brethren have encouraged us to attend regularly? Christ’s teachings suggest that doing anything “to be seen of men” smacks of pride. Do we seek the Lord’s current will for us and follow it? Or, do we go about our daily lives working towards goals we set for ourselves with no thought for God’s plan for us?
We can’t keep the First Great Commandment if we are proud.
Pride Pits Us Against Our Neighbor
If we suffer from the universal sin of pride, we set ourselves in opposition to our fellowman as well. Because we believe our value must be earned, we compete with our neighbors for approval of others. We judge everyone as being above or beneath us, not of equal worth. President Benson described it this way:
“The proud make every man their adversary by pitting their intellects, opinions, works, wealth, talents, or any other worldly measuring device against others. In the words of C. S. Lewis: “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.” (Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1952, pp. 109–10.)”
We can’t keep the Second Great Commandment if we are proud.
Humility Unites Us with God
Since the opposite of pride is humility, based on President Benson’s statements on pride, we can conclude the following about humility:
- Humility before God is when we value His great knowledge and wisdom,
- The humble seek out God’s will and unite theirs with His,
- The humble accept the authority of God giving direction in their lives, and
- The humble appreciate and model His mighty works.
Humility before God allows us to keep the First Great Commandment.
Humility Unites us with Our Fellowman
In regards to our neighbors, humility is when we esteem our brethren as ourselves. Their needs are our needs, their challenges our challenges, their joys are our joys. Their rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness are just as worthy of being defended as are our rights. The humble do not see others as above or beneath them.
Since humility is the opposite of pride, we can reword C.S. Lewis’ quote from President Benson’s talk as follows:
“Humility gets great pleasure out of having things, but never out of having more of it than the next man….”
When we realize that we have more of something than our neighbor who is in need, because we get great pleasure out of having it, and because we esteem our neighbor’s happiness as our own, we naturally share out of our abundance and we joy in their joy. I believe this is what the Lord meant when he described Zion as a place where “Every man seek[s] the interest of his neighbor” (D&C 82:19).
Humility allows us to keep the Second Great Commandment.
This chart summarizes the above aspects of humility and pride as they relate to our relationships with God and our fellowman: