by Dr. Juli Slattery
My dear friend Christine and I were recently talking over a cup of coffee about the battle of pride—how difficult it is to detect and how impossible to conquer. She told me a story that perfectly symbolized the problem:
Juli, every morning I go out to my garden and find spider webs all over my vegetables. Each day I brush them away, but sure enough, they are back in a different form the next morning. Those spider webs will keep showing up until I find and kill the spider. It dawned on me—that’s how it is with my pride. I confess it to the Lord, but every morning it grows back in a different form.
I could definitely relate to Christine. That relentless “spider” weaves daily webs in my life too. One day it shows up in my irritation with my husband. The next day, I see it in how I react to one of my children. And then there it is again … my silent, judgmental thoughts toward a fellow Christian in ministry.
Pride has been a battle for as long as I can remember. For many years, I didn’t recognize it as the spider of pride. It felt more like insecurity or even self-contempt. I often lay awake at night despondent about not being included in a friend group or self-conscious about feeling too fat and unattractive. But pride in my younger years was simply a different manifestation with my self-obsession.
As we journey on the road of Christianity, it’s very possible that we never confront the spider of pride. We become adept at masking our pride and even reinforcing it in our relationships. Whether it is flat-out narcissism or subtle self-righteousness, pride is perhaps the greatest barrier to intimacy with God and with others. Pride is the antithesis of what Jesus embodied on earth. He invites us to come to Him and to learn from Him, “For I am gentle and humble in heart.” Interestingly, when Jesus said these words, He did so in the context of offering peace and rest. “Come, you who are heavy-burdened, and I will give you rest for your souls.” Jesus was referring to the heavy burden of self.
Our burdens become infinitely greater when we mix them with self-focus. Irritation morphs into anger when I dwell on why I wasn’t treated the way I wanted to be. A setback becomes an overwhelming failure when I haven’t lived up to my own expectations of perfection. My limitations become humiliation when I obsess about how others will judge me.
The problem is that I am the spider. It’s not an enemy outside of my being or even Satan taunting me. My greatest threat is the one that rages from within: demanding to be noticed, to be satisfied, and to have justice.
“If anyone wants to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” These words spoken by Jesus are possibly so familiar that we tune out their radical meaning. Following Jesus means inviting Him to kill the spider daily. It means viewing myself (my agenda, my desires, and my reputation) as the enemy.
Far too often, our Christian lives involve occasionally dusting away spider webs without ever considering the monstrosity of ego that daily reinvents them.
An intimate marriage is absolutely impossible with spiderwebs of pride. It keeps us from forgiving, from seeing life from our spouse’s perspective, from the patience to listen, and from a willingness to try new things. Think of the spider not simply as creating webs, but as a consistent threat to intimacy with the ones you love the most.
If you long to see transformation in your walk with God and in your impact toward your relationships, dare to pray daily a bold prayer: “Jesus, save me from the spider of my pride. Whatever it takes, give me a humble and gentle heart.”
The world does not need more eloquent and zealous Christians to champion the cause of Christ. The world desperately needs those who will commit to a daily death that Christ may live in and through us.
You may also be interested in these follow-up resources: Java with Juli #196: Public Me vs. Private Me (exclusive to members); and the following blog posts: God Says Not to Judge ... Right? ; Help! My Husband Annoys Me; How to Have Tough Conversations