“If all my friends were blind I’d probably drive a Taurus.”
Have you ever thought about how much pride and envy shapes so many of our decisions every day? I have. Because, I’m smack dab in the middle of looking for a new car and talking to my closest friend Ted about it, and he makes the “Taurus” comment. Ted knows two things about me for sure: My friends aren’t blind and I haven’t been talking about Taurus’s with him. (I’ve driven German cars for decades.)
So, what’s going on in my head and my heart that I’d not given some perfectly good cars any real consideration?
I have no idea how early in life that we begin to envy what others have, or become proud of what we own or have accomplished. Did it start with wanting a nicer toy, bike, an A on a test, first in a foot race, or the prettiest dress? Perhaps it was a parent that always compared us to other kids, or to themselves. I don’t know.
But, this feeling we all had in common. When we got we wanted, it made us feel good – superior. We sensed the envy of others and we enjoyed our moment in the sun, sometimes even lying in bed at night re-living the memory over and over. As we did and without even realizing it, we were developing an addiction for the affirmation of others and some of us are still full blown junkies desperately trying to feed the habit.
By the time I was a teenager I was hooked. My parents were good, simple, middle class people, but I wanted more – even as a young kid. I studied how rich people lived, where they lived, how they dressed – and, of course, what they drove. I thought Jesus was wonderful, but I didn’t want to live like him – I wanted to live like them. I raised materialism to an art form.
The old man just won’t die!
So, when I was born again at age 31 and “gave my life to Christ,” I thought the pride problem would melt away with the death of the “old man”. And, I remember being surprised that it hadn’t – I’m still surprised and disappointed.
My (our) problem is this. We all have this emotional memory bank of the things we wanted and the affirmation we’ve longed for, pre-salvation. And, I’ve discovered it doesn’t just disappear with salvation. It gets better because the Holy Spirit enables us to “set our minds on the things above”. But like Pavlov’s dog, it takes next to nothing to get my juices flowing. And my eyes and ears are still taking in the things I used to crave. I’m guessing it’s similar to the feelings an alcoholic gets anytime they walk in a bar or see a drink in someone’s hand. I’m told it gets easier over time, but never goes away.
“For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the father but from the world.” I John 2:16
So, what do we do about the problem?
Before I launch into my “ought to do” list for you, I hope by now you’ve gotten the message that I’m still a recovering affirmation – pride junkie who falls off the wagon weekly and even daily. My use of these ideas has only made my relapses less frequent. So, here we go:
1. Stay out of stores, show rooms or websites that tempt you to want what you do not need. A friend of mine, who likes nice clothes, goes on “clothing fasts” for one to three months. That means he not only buys no clothes, but won’t even go in clothing stores.
2. Make a decision to stop reading catalogues or magazines like Car and Driver, House Beautiful or Architectural Digest. Perhaps it’s magazines about your hobby that has you always wishing for the newest boat, gun, kitchen, handbag, vacation or golf clubs. Cancel your subscriptions and ask the companies to stop sending you catalogs. Think of them as pornography for materialists.
3. The next time you crave something, stop and ask yourself why? “Why is it I want this thing so much? Where did that come from?” Be introspective. What need for affirmation are you trying to meet? Get some Christian professional help, if necessary, but find the root source.
4. If you’re serious about getting on top of this problem, set aside some time to pray and reflect on it. Write down your earliest memories of wanting things or affirmation. Ask the Holy Spirit to recall those memories to you. Then write some personal boundaries for your life that will lessen the temptation to feed these desires.
5. Confess your sin (let’s call it what it is). First confess it to God, and then tell a friend, a mentor or your pastor your problem. Ask them to call you or ask you a month from now and ask, “How goes the battle?”
6. Confess immediately any covetous thoughts you have about anything or anyone!
7. Decide not to purchase anything that your friends would envy. It can still be nice, good quality and stylish. But when we’re fantasizing about how our friends’ heads will turn when we walk into a room, or park our car, or begin imagining what our friends will say about what we have, or have accomplished – we have a problem. Two problems actually.
Not only are we feeding the pride problem in our own life, but we’re doing the same in our friends’ lives. When we get something nicer, the bar just got raised for them and how do they top that? Not your problem? I think it is. You and I have it within our power to stop the “pride wars”, at least among our friends. This gets right back to Jesus’ statements that we are to be the yeast in the lives of others – that thing that causes the whole loaf to rise. And like salt, that changes the flavor and improves relationships.
I’ve found this about the life of a follower of Jesus. It’s up to us to raise the bar of virtue – not because we always want to, but because it’s the right thing to do.
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:1-5
Oh, by the way, I decided to take my own advice and I chose a very nice car by anyone’s standard, but not the head turner I had and I really wanted again. And also for the record, it made me a little sad when I did. The old man doesn’t like losing.
Question: What things have you done to curb your pride or envy problem?