Do you . . .

  • Feel like you are the main reason for the successes where you work or volunteer?
  • Find yourself using “I”, “me”, and “my” a lot when you talk?
  • Think you deserve special treatment or perks?
  • Begin your discussions with a mini-résumé about why you are qualified in a particular area instead of just speaking like a normal person?

. . . then you, like me, may be afflicted with one of the most destructive human attitudes: PRIDE.

Is pride rampant in our society? You only have to turn on the television to see pride oozing from the mouths of many. One memorable example was an ESPN interview with the controversial Seattle Seahawk Richard Sherman. It was so over-the-top- prideful that it received over 4 million views on YouTube. Check it out. Unbelievable.

But this is not something new. Throughout world history, pride has been the reason for the fall of many “great” leaders. A few thousand years ago the writer of Proverbs penned an amazingly accurate observation: Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)

We’ve all been on the receiving end of a prideful boss, coworker or family member. At best, it is irritating, and sometimes downright infuriating. But many of us have also been on the giving end of pride. It is easy to slip into this mindset and not even realize the destructive impact it has on those we lead and love.

So, for what should those of us with a pride problem strive?  Humility. In Proverbs 11:2 it says, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Who doesn’t need more wisdom? I surely do.

Remember Jim Collins’ discovery in the book Good to Great? The best leaders were not larger-than-life, egocentric deal-makers. The best had the rare combination of “extreme personal humility and intense professional will.” Find this kind of leader and you will have an amazing experience at work, home, or where you volunteer.

A significant portion of Tim Irwin’s book Derailed (which outlines the reasons for the failure of CEOs) addresses the huge impact that lack of humility has in the downfall of leaders. He gives a balanced view of the appropriate self-image: “Humility is not about being self-deprecating . . . It’s about self-forgetfulness, remembering that in our jobs we’re seeking to serve others . . . Humility is about an accurate self-assessment – ‘My job is important, and I need to do it well’ – but it’s also the freedom not to inflate who you are or what you’re doing.”

And perhaps the most memorable quote comes from the C.S. Lewis book Mere Christianity: “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

Here are a few practical tips to develop humility (adapted from Derailed):

1. Check your true attitude toward others. Do you feel smarter, more capable, or superior?

2. Be aware of self-promotion. Very few tasks are accomplished only by individuals. Give credit to the team.

3. Develop an attitude of gratitude. Make a practice of recognizing others for their accomplishments.

4. Ask a trusted adviser how you are perceived in meetings or in other interactions and be willing to allow him/her to speak into your life.

Are you willing to go on the quest to stamp out pride and live a life of true humility? Our friends, family, and coworkers are hoping that we do. And our future success in life depends to a great degree upon our willingness embark on this journey. Remember, pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.