×
×
homepage logo
SUBSCRIBE

Comer: Understanding pride and how to overcome it

Commentary

By Ryan Comer - | Jun 3, 2023

Photo supplied

Ryan Comer

More than a century after the Jews were carried captive into Babylon lived a man by the name of Haman. His story begins in Esther 3 in the Old Testament.

King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, putting him above all the princes. The servants of the king in the king’s gate all bowed to Haman, all except for one man — Mordecai, who was a Jew. The king’s servants informed Haman, and when Haman noticed Mordecai wouldn’t bow to him, he became angry. As a result, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews in the kingdom. To accomplish this, he told the king there was a “certain people” who wouldn’t keep the king’s laws and asked if they could be destroyed. The king told Haman he could do with them as he saw fit. Letters were subsequently sent to all the king’s provinces to kill all the Jews — young, old, little children and women included — on a specific future date.

Later, Haman was joyful because he had been invited to join the king at a pair of banquets prepared by Esther, the queen. But when he saw Mordecai at the king’s gate and that he didn’t stand up or move for him, he was again full of anger. Haman continued home and bragged to his wife and friends about his good fortune, specifically boasting about being the only one Esther had invited to the banquet along with the king, but said none of it satisfied him as long as Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate. Haman’s wife and friends suggested that gallows of 50 cubits (75 feet) be made and then Mordecai could be hung from it. This pleased Haman and he had the gallows made.

At the second banquet, Esther informed the king of Haman’s plot to kill all the Jews — which would include her because she was a Jew. Harbonah, a chamberlain, told the king of the gallows that Haman had made for Mordecai. Enraged, the king said to hang Haman there, and Haman was subsequently hanged.

There is a lot more to this story that could be told and a lot of lessons that could be learned, but specifically relating to Haman, it was a tragic result of a sin we unfortunately, even today, are very well acquainted with — the sin of pride.

Haman couldn’t just allow Mordecai to refuse to bow to him. It frustrated him. It angered him. Even when he had reason to be joyful, his thoughts were consumed by Mordecai refusing to show him the respect he felt that he deserved.

While most of us will never be guilty of allowing our pride to consume us to the point that we attempt to do something as heinous as Haman desired, how many of us today suffer from the same problem of anger because of perceived slights? Perhaps someone has said or done something to us that we found offensive and we are unable to move beyond it. Contention is a common result of pride.

“Pride is a deadly cancer,” said Elder Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “It is a gateway sin that leads to a host of other human weaknesses. In fact, it could be said that every other sin is, in essence, a manifestation of pride.

“This sin has many faces. It leads some to revel in their own perceived self-worth, accomplishments, talents, wealth or position. They count these blessings as evidence of being ‘chosen,’ ‘superior’ or ‘more righteous’ than others. This is the sin of ‘Thank God I am more special than you.’ At its core is the desire to be admired or envied. It is the sin of self-glorification.

“For others, pride turns to envy: They look bitterly at those who have better positions, more talents or greater possessions than they do. They seek to hurt, diminish and tear down others in a misguided and unworthy attempt at self-elevation. When those they envy stumble or suffer, they secretly cheer.”

Writer, scholar and theologian C.S. Lewis expressed similar thoughts.

“For pride is spiritual cancer: It eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense,” he said.

How much did Jesus Christ detest pride? Consider the parable of the Pharisee and the publican.

“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

“The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

“I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

“And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

“I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14).

Latter-day Saints will find striking similarities between that parable and the account of the Zoramites in the Book of Mormon. The Zoramites had constructed a high platform that they would take turns standing on, reaching toward heaven and uttering the same prayer, which included the following words:

“But thou art the same yesterday, today, and forever; and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee; and we also thank thee that thou hast elected us, that we may not be led away after the foolish traditions of our brethren, which doth bind them down to a belief of Christ, which doth lead their hearts to wander far from thee, our God.

“And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people. Amen.” (Alma 31:17-18).

Many might read those stories and say, “That is not me. I do not thank God that I am better than anyone.” That may be true. You may not explicitly say those things in your prayers. But how often do you speak and behave toward those around you in ways that reflect that kind of thinking? How often do you think about those around you in ways that reflect that thinking? I think if we’re all being honest, we can see many examples of a sense of superiority in our conversations with others and in our thoughts.

It seems that as easy as pride can be to diagnose, it can be just as challenging to cure. We can certainly see examples of it in the lives of those around us as well as in ourselves, but how do we combat it?

Elder Uchtdorf stressed the importance of charity.

“It is almost impossible to be lifted up in pride when our hearts are filled with charity. … When we see the world around us through the lens of the pure love of Christ, we begin to understand humility,” he said.

As I reflect on my two-year Latter-day Saint mission to Taiwan, I can’t help but feel amazed by my thoughts of the people there, even now, 20 years after I returned home. Off the top of my head, I cannot think of a single person I met who I didn’t like. Certainly, there were people who didn’t treat missionaries as well as I hoped they would, but I cannot think of a single person who I would say I didn’t like. On the contrary, all I can think about when I think of the people in Taiwan is how much I love and care for them. How come it is this way? The answer to me is charity. I spent two years serving them and teaching them about the gospel of Jesus Christ. My heart was filled with charity, so there was no room for pride. For two years, I saw the world around me through the lens of the pure love of Christ, and it resulted in humility.

Having a heart full of charity may not come naturally. This is why prayer is important. If we are finding it hard to have charity for someone, or we are feeling like we are filled with nothing but pride, we should recognize our need for Heavenly Father’s assistance and go to him.

One of my favorite scriptures is Ether 12:27 in the Book of Mormon.

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”

There is no doubt in my mind about the truthfulness of this scripture because I have seen it proven throughout my life. I could cite many examples of weaknesses I have had in the past that I have been able to overcome. And not only have I been able to overcome those weaknesses, but they have become strengths. I know it was only possible through the grace of God. I couldn’t have done it myself. Heavenly Father may not give us everything we want, but I know with surety that he wants us to overcome our weaknesses. If we struggle with having a heart full of charity and go to him for help, I can say with complete confidence that he will help us. He can make a heart full of charity a strength for us.

I will be the first to admit that I have much work to do when it comes to eliminating pride. I have felt humbled as I have written this as I have thought of the many examples of pride that I have demonstrated, and continue to demonstrate. But I count it as a blessing that I have been allowed to recognize those examples and that I have a desire to be better. I hope that for all of us.

Contact Ryan Comer at rcomer@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @rbcomer8388 and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rbcomer8388.

Newsletter

Join thousands already receiving our daily newsletter.

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)