“Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honor is humility.”
Proverbs 18:12 MEV
“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Proverbs 16:18 MEV
You often hear the second verse quoted, at least in part: pride goeth before a fall. It’s sort of a maxim now. Today when both these verses came up in my Bible reading plan, I noticed a subtle difference… Pride may indeed go before a fall, but not perhaps in a causal relationship.
Maybe it’s just that when we are successful, we are naturally proud of our success, but when we experience destruction, we recognize how silly and vain our pride really was.
For me I think this was especially true because of my somewhat fundamentalist upbringing. Our faith seemed wedded to our behavior — Our commitment to not drinking, dancing, smoking, lying, coveting, our commitment to doing all the 10 Commandments – – these would show that we were sanctified by Christ.
I think as a kid growing up, that was sort of where I was. I knew what good behavior looked like, I generally did it, I had very few opportunities for any egregious or public sin, so of course I avoided it… And I was proud of my success … and judgmental of those who wouldn’t or couldn’t behave as well as I did.
Pride was present before the fall, but it wasn’t pride that caused the fall. It was simply being human, growing up, coming into a world of opportunity without an intimate and personal connection to God. Pride there was, but it didn’t cause the fall.
Once my world disintegrated, I could see how flimsy and pointless my pride had been. You could say, the destruction of my life actually cured my pride. This might even be a better way to look at these Scriptures:
Once we’re destroyed, we recognize how pointless our pride was — so we don’t indulge it anymore.
In this way our fault, our destruction, is actually quite a great stride toward authenticity. We recognize that if we, who had so much pride in our own righteousness, can so easily slip into destruction, we are not so quick to condemn another.
So while the scripture is right that pride goes before a fall, I think a New Testament reflection of that would be: those who haven’t fallen yet may still be proud, but those who have once fallen understand and forgive.