One of the questions I am frequently asked as a therapist is why the divorce rate is so high in the United States. Certainly, there are many factors that go into this dilemma, but if we boil off all the reasons we find at the bottom of the pot, we will find pride. Yes, the deadly sin to all relationships, including with our Lord. When there is pride in a relationship, the relationship will deteriorate and often fail.
Everyone has heard of pride, but can we put a definition on it that we can work with? We get a couple glimpses of a definition from the Bible. Psalm 75:4 tells us not to boast. Paul warns us in 2 Corinthians 10:12 not to compare ourselves to others and get caught up in commending without understanding. So again, no boasting. I think this is really what we think of when we think of pride. We think of the Pharisee in the temple announcing his greatness.
Unfortunately, in relationships, pride is not always so obvious. But what should be obvious to us is that pride does not feel good. If we tune into our thoughts and feelings around pride, it feels like gunk. It sounds like “I am better than you.” “I don’t care about you.” “You did not do a good enough job.” But it can also sound like “I am not going to talk to you because you did not take out the trash again.” Another common thing I see is people going to bed angry at each other.
Friends, the old cliché is right, do not go to bed angry at your spouse. Why? The letter to the Ephesians gives us the answer: “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun set on your anger and do not leave room for the devil.” (Ephesians 4:26-27) When we go to sleep angry, we let the devil in and he takes advantage every time. Pride is what causes us to go to bed angry with our spouse. Pride is what causes us to give our partners the silent treatment. It is what allows us to wallow in our hurt. It keeps us from taking correction. Pride works at us in different ways and it is imperative that we reflect on these ways.
If my husband tells me I hurt him by something I said, and I react defensively and reply that if he hadn’t been late, I would not have had to be angry, who is the one being prideful? It is me. Pride interferes with our ability to take correction from our spouse. Correction can be embarrassing, no doubt. But it is much better to be embarrassed than sin through pride.
If we do not feel good about an interaction that we have had with our spouse, our children or our friends, we need to do something about it. The longer we wait, the more the devil gets a foothold. If we rely on another cliché of sweeping things under the rug, we also arrive at pride. Why do things not get addressed? Pride. Yes, conversations can be hard, they can be awkward and sometimes they are downright painful. But nothing is worse than carrying on with pride in a relationship. We all make mistakes. When we have made a mistake, we should apologize, and when we do not know we made a mistake, we should be humble and accept correction.
We also would be wise to remember that pride goes both ways. The way we admonish and correct our loved ones matter. In the example, if my husband angrily admonishes me about my hurting him or uses inappropriate words, this does not justify my prideful response. Rather, it demonstrates that we have both fallen prey to pride. We often fall into the trap of fighting pride with pride, and I assure you that pride plus pride equals pride and we both have lost and so has the relationship.
When all else fails and we don’t know how to fix a situation, let us remember to love. When you don’t know what to do or what to say, love. We should love with humility. Let us remember: “above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) Let us reflect every day in our examination of conscience on our relationships. Where have we failed to love? Where we have failed, let us right the wrong before the sun goes down on our sin. Do not let the devil win. If we can place more emphasis on humility in our relationships, there is no doubt our relationships will be better and filled with more love and will last longer.