Posted by: Philip Rushton | November 14, 2011

When Pride Comes After The Fall

We’ve all heard the famous line, “pride comes before the fall.” It is true enough. Often prideful behavior is quickly followed by a humbling situation. The famous children’s story about the tortoise and the hare captures this idea well. The hare was so overconfident of his abilities that he ended up losing a race to a tortoise.

What I’ve been reflecting on today, however, is that the opposite is also true. Often after we fall or make a mistake, a subtle form of pride can set in. It takes the form of self-criticism or the inability to let go of the mistakes you have made. I deal with this in my life. It’s somewhat of a perfectionist tendency. When I let somebody down or fail to accomplish what I set out to do, I tend to beat myself up over these mistakes. Sometimes this happens over even trivial mistakes – (like hanging up a curtain rod incorrectly last night!)

One of my mentors at Regent College helped me see this behavior in a new light. He suggests that when we constantly beat ourselves up over our mistakes we are actually expressing pride. In essence, we are saying, “I’m too good to make mistakes” or “I should be better than this.” “While its okay for others to trip up and make mistakes, it is not okay for me.”

My mentor followed up this insight by saying that the only way we can break this cycle of perfectionism and self-criticism is if we humble ourselves enough to let God’s grace into our lives. I’d never really considered that receiving grace requires humility, but it makes sense. To receive grace we must humble ourselves and acknowledge that we are in need of external help. Perhaps this is why Jesus says it is blessed to be poor in spirit or to be meek. These humble dispositions are necessary for grace to set us free.

This is one of those old lessons that I need to learn over and over again. Today is one of those days. May God’s grace set us free from the oppression of unchecked self-criticism.


  1. Thanks for this, Phil. An important reminder of an important lesson.

  2. Amen! And again I say Amen! I was just reading in Deuteronomy where Moses was recounting God telling the people to move on to the promised land:

    ” 5 On this side of the Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses began to explain this law, saying, 6 “The LORD our God spoke to us in Horeb, saying: ‘You have dwelt long enough at this mountain. 7 Turn and take your journey, and go to the mountains of the Amorites, to all the neighboring places in the plain,[d] in the mountains and in the lowland, in the South and on the seacoast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the River Euphrates. 8 See, I have set the land before you; go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—to give to them and their descendants after them.’”

    Mike and I were discussing the same thing, about pride coming after a fall. Sometimes we dwell at the mountain of our failure far too long, when God is telling us to turn and move on. But, let’s not lose sight of the journey ahead. Moses never made it to the promised land, and those who did had to fight for it all the way. And when God told them to annihilate everyone in a town He meant everything. I know I have things that I hold on to, even when I believe I’ve moved on from one place to the next. We need to submit “everything” to God if we are ever to reach the promised land. There is nothing I own, believe, feel or think that can improve on one square foot of the promised land.

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