Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18)
I wasn’t brought up to value myself. I wasn’t encouraged to take pride in what I did or in who I was. Having pride in oneself was evil. And I was clearly evil.
I worked really hard at school, even when I was homeschooled I was thorough and hardworking. I had no one to compete with, my sister was older, I couldn’t compete with her, so all I knew was that I had to be better than myself. I felt guilty about not being good enough and for hating writing and maths, but I forced myself to do it.
There was something I didn’t have to be forced to do. I loved to draw and I was fiercely creative. My drawings were always better than others of the same age (when I was actually around people my age), it was something that I excelled at and loved. A gift and skill to be cherished and cultivated. It was cultivated. But not cherished.
I felt like my skill was a curse. It was sent to test me. God was testing me to see if I would give in and be proud of my work and what I could do. I loved drawing, painting, making things with clay, it never felt like work. And I liked the compliments, they made me feel really good about myself but then there would be this sting, the deep feeling of discomfort, the guilt. Guilt for feeling good about myself. Guilt for being happy with myself. Guilt for feeling proud.
In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God (Romans 15:17)
I was frequently reminded that I should not be proud of myself, any skill or gift that I had was thanks to god for letting me be remotely good at anything, he let me do well, he gave me my hands, he gave me my life, he gave me my skills, any praise was not for me, it was for him. I should rejoice in the praise of the skills that god gave me but I should never be pleased for myself. It was all god, never me. Never.
The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this:
They will not go unpunished (Proverbs 16:5)
All through school and grammar school, I put myself down, I refused compliments and when I didn’t get the art prize in my final year, it was payback for any moment that I allowed the compliments in and felt good about myself.
What was certain to me back then, was that I would be punished in some way for recognising that I was good at something. Perhaps I was anticipating the punishment and was punishing myself for being good at something, when I decided to study languages at university, which I was good at but found deeply challenging, instead of persuing my deep love of drawing reality.
I gave up what I loved. The ultimate way to avoid being proud.