I know it sounds cliche, but one of the things I love most about ministry is that I often get just as much out of counseling people as they do from meeting with me, if not more so. Such was the case last week when I sat down for lunch with one of my college students.
As we sat outside enjoying the beautiful weather, catching up about faith and life, she told me about a ministry in our church with which she has become involved. The ministry is called Celebrate Recovery, and its purpose is to celebrate God’s healing power in our lives. What I, personally, like about the ministry is that it’s open to anyone–you can be a recovering alcoholic, healing from the wounds of parental abuse, overcoming an eating disorder, or simply getting over a bad break-up. No matter your situation, everyone comes together under the banner of God’s redemptive healing.
However, my young friend also told me something about the ministry that caught me off guard. When I asked her about the ministry’s teachings, I expected to hear something about harnessing the power of God’s love to empower yourself and overcome your woundedness. But she didn’t say that at all. Instead she replied, “I’ve learned a lot about the importance of humility. My pride has really been getting in the way of my healing.”
Wait, what? This ministry gathers together a group of incredibly wounded people, and then tells them to work on their pride? How could you say such a thing to a person who is grieving over the divorce of his parents or a girl who was abused by her boyfriend? How can you tell them that pride is their problem?
Yes, I was indeed stunned to hear this….but in a very good way. While this teaching is extremely counter-intuitive, it is also incredibly insightful. By making this move, Celebrate Recovery does not pin the blame on the victim, but it does force them to look at their role in the healing process.
C.S. Lewis once said that pride is the source of all other sins, and I agree. It creeps into our lives at every turn, even at times when we are largely innocent. And in doing so, it cripples us. For instance, pride is one of the biggest factors that prevents us from forgiving another. A significant part of the healing process is forgiveness, but I usually struggle mightily with this act. I somehow believe that if I forgive the person, then I am letting them off the hook. Ironically, I only continue to punish myself by refusing to forgive, because I obsess about it and harbor bitterness in my heart, but I simply won’t let the hurt go. And ultimately this unforgiveness stems from pride. I want to punish the other person because I think I deserve better, so I withhold my forgiveness, and I never truly heal.
Another way in which pride can hinder the healing process is in the refusal to ask for help. Sometimes people struggle with a sin or pain, but are too ashamed to talk about it, and so they continue to languish in it. Rather than call on the Body of Christ for aid, we pridefully assume that we can handle things on our own, so nothing ever changes.
At its very root, the problem with pride is that it begins with the self. It always puts the self and its interests first and foremost. But what Celebrate Recovery has brilliantly realized is that healing does not begin with the self–it begins with God. If we start with the self, we will always end in destruction because we are selfish and short-sighted. If, on the other hand, we begin with God and put away our pride, then our selfishness and vanity will not stand in our way. God will set our priorities aright, He will soften our hearts, enable us to forgive, and overcome us with His love. Only then will we be able to break free from the pride than imprisons us in our own pain.
So I challenge you today–look for pride where you least expect it. Even in the areas where you think you are totally innocent, pride lies there also. But once you purge it, freedom awaits. It is counter-intuitive, but it is also true.