Why do great societies fall? Many studies list the disintegration of the family, sexual immorality, entitlement, and other issues. At the root of all changes that lead to the downfall, however, is one character trait: pride.
Think you're not prone to pride? That this topic doesn't apply to you? Those thoughts alone guarantee that pride has its grip on your heart.
Surely you've heard the phrase, "Pride comes before the fall." The source of this saying is Proverbs 16:18, which reads: "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."
We are all prideful at times. Often, much of the time. It's an insidious trait that separates us from God. Anytime we get defensive or angry, pride is there. Not sure how pride can show up in your life? Check out this list of 7 symptoms of pride.
Recently, I studied the topic of pride in the scriptures. I got as far as Deuteronomy 8. It’s full of valuable lessons in itself. The most important lesson is how to keep pride from becoming destructive. That's our focus for today - how to overcome pride.
Moses is talking to the Israelites. You remember the Israelites...Slaves to the Egyptians, rescued from slavery by Moses, and led through the wilderness for 40 years until they finally came to the promised land.
During those 40 years, they were sustained by the Lord. Since they were wandering, they couldn’t till the fields and raise grain. They were in a desert, without plentiful food or water. The Lord gave them all they needed - manna to feed them, and water from a rock when required. Their clothing didn’t wear out, and they had the physical strength to do all of the walking they did.
Pride is a personal trait that leads to personal, and eventually, societal collapse
What great blessings the Israelites had! The Lord sustained them in these trying circumstances to teach them to depend on Him. He was teaching them who he is, and what he is capable of doing. He was training them to be obedient and follow his commandments. They had to be weaned off of idol worship.
Now they’re starting to conquer the lands they will inherit. They’re starting to go into the lands which are plentiful, full of the things they need. These lands have water, grains, olive trees, pomegranates, honey, and metals.
Here comes the warning...and this warning is applicable to all of us today, especially since so many of us live in lands of plenty.
This is the warning: When your bellies are full, you will bless the Lord thy God for all he has given you. Beware that you don’t forget God by thinking you no longer need to keep the commandments. Once all that you have is multiplied, and you have abundance, you will be likely to become prideful, and forget the Lord and your hardships and how he guided and led you to your freedom.
We are all prone to forget God and his goodness. When times are good and everything is moving along smoothly, what are your prayers like? Do you perhaps even forget to pray?
Yet when times are hard and you’re really struggling, how often do you pray then? And it’s likely that those prayers are much more heartfelt and earnest. Hardship tends to bring humility.
Moses gives us the antidote, the way to overcome our tendency to forget God and become prideful. That antidote is humility.
He tells us two things specifically:
- Bless the Lord the God when your bellies are full.
- Remember the Lord the God, and that all that you have has come from him.
All that we have comes from Him. Everything. You didn't get that job because you're so talented....you got that job because God blessed you with talent, which you then worked to develop through persistence. We tend to think that WE are the ones who make all of the good things happen in our lives. We need to remember the truth, which is that we can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us.
There’s a simple way to apply these two things in our own lives.
- Be grateful
- Be obedient
Keep pride away through gratitude
We can be grateful and obedient in all times. You might need a reminder, or to develop the habit of gratitude, to keep you on that path during difficult times.
Start the habit now. Don’t wait for hard times! Or if today is a hard time for you, start with gratitude.
What are all of the things for which you are grateful? The more you think of all the good things you have, the more you will see the hand of the Lord in your life.
I like to tell things in my house that I appreciate them when I'm doing housework. Thank you, washer, for cleaning my clothes so well. Thank you dryer, for drying them for me. I'm grateful that I don't have to take my clothes down to the river to wash them, and hang them to dry.
Keep pride away through obedience
The next habit is obedience. Start with the commandments. Ultimately, do your best to embrace the two great commandments that Jesus gave us when he came. You know them…..in their simplicity, they are:
- Love God
- Love everyone else
Practice the habit of love. Love is a choice and a behavior, not simply a feeling. If love were a feeling, it would be fleeting and impermanent. But we know that God is love (1 John 4:8). So are we meant to BE love.
Humility comes through gratitude and obedience. And obedience is how we show God that we love him. "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15).
Abundance leads to pride
When we have abundance, we tend to think that the habits that got us there aren't so important. If you've trained hard for 6 months to run a marathon, once the marathon is over, it's easy to think that you can slack off on your training. You're already in good shape, so you don't need to work so hard now, right?
That's deceptive thinking. That thinking of "I can just skip today" leads to many days skipped. Suddenly, it seems, we've gained 10 pounds and can't run 5 miles.
In the Book of Mormon, there's a cyclical pattern of a rise and fall of different people. Each time they fall, it's because the society has become overtaken by pride. They start out humble and keeping the commandments. Because they keep the commandments, they prosper. They become wealthy in many different ways. This abundance leads to pride, which leads to wars and the downfall of their government. Every. Single. Time.
This happens so often, it's called the pride cycle. It's a warning to us about the critical importance of staying humble, and shows us how we can all become prideful if we're not very careful.
The small and simple things practiced every day are what keep us humble. Omitting those small and simple things also lead us to become prideful.
We all need to beware of pride. It’s sneaky. Focus on gratitude, obedience, and love to stay humble.