Whether the launching of a new outreach ministry, dedication of a new building, or simply the completion of a particularly successfully program year, you might feel proud of yourself and your people. You did something together! Your heart swells as you look at all you accomplished together. You might think “I’m so proud of them!” Or “I’m so proud of myself—look at what I did.” You might even feel proud of yourself for surviving a particularly difficult year, when things didn’t go so well, but you are still standing.
Pride is a double-edged sword, however. On one hand, it’s important to share your accomplishments. Sometimes pastors and other church leaders are excessively modest: “Oh, it really wasn’t that much.” Or, “I couldn’t have done it without the team.” (That is laudable and true, but they couldn’t have done it without your leadership.)
My grandmother always used to say, after a particularly delicious meal, “That was a good dinner, if I do say so, who shouldn’t.” In other words, she didn’t think she should say anything positive about her efforts. It’s become a catchphrase in our family. I now look at sharing my accomplishments in a different way: you can unapologetically claim your own giftedness and how you put it to work, without coming off as arrogant. You don’t have to brag to everyone, or overshadow the contributions of others. But you can be proud of yourself and share the remarkable accomplishments you’ve had in your life with those closest to you.
Pride of course has a dark side, though. It’s one of the seven deadly sins, after all. Benjamin Franklin in his autobiography said of pride, “For even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.”
The real trap of pride is conflating our accomplishments with our self. Our identity can quickly become wrapped up in our achievements. Then, when things don’t go the way we expected, we can lose our sense of ourselves. This is a deeply spiritual issue for pastors. If God called me to this ministry and I responded and it’s not going how it “should,” what does that mean for who I am? I can remember as a pastor sitting in the front of the church as worship began, and my mood would depend on how many people were sitting there. Even in that moment I knew I shouldn’t feel that way, but I couldn’t control it.
Here are two ways to free yourself of the trap of pride (over time)
- Claim your intrinsic value. As a child of God, you are worthy for that reason alone. You don’t have to prove it or earn it.
- Celebrate everything. I’ve found that celebration makes me freer than pride does. I can find something to celebrate in every circumstance of life, if I look for it. If an effort fails, I can celebrate that I learned something from it. It’s not so attached to me and my efforts. If I have a major accomplishment, I can open my heart to a full celebration of what I’ve done, whether on my own or together with others.
So: What are the many ways you can claim your value before God?
And: What are the many things you can celebrate about your ministry?