Why? Because they are effective.
And we’re not just talking about commercial success here. If you’re good at anything that people respect and/or admire, you are a prime target for this one: making money, managing people, looking good on a movie or TV screen, writing books, throwing footballs. You name it.
People whose lives have met with commercial success are going to be told how good they are. Constantly. Its inevitable. Employers, clients, co-workers, employees, friends, family. The person who holds the golden goose which feeds the masses is seldom criticized.
I’m not in favor of false humility. If you’ve turned a company around, you can take credit for it. I don’t think the danger of pride comes when you acknowledge your strengths. I think it comes when you no longer see (or, at least, acknowledge) your weaknesses and limitations.
I’ve seen it first hand, and it can be ugly: someone who obviously has made a tremendous success out of a business venture suddenly thinks he is bullet-proof. Eventually, if someone doesn’t call them on it, the end result is – to be as frank as I can – the Enron effect. A sense of invulnerability and arrogance leads to a belief that the rules no longer apply. Things may work out for a while. But, eventually, all of life comes crashing down like a house of cards.
I could go on and on, but I don’t want this post to drag out too long. Here are a few other bullet-points, though:
– This can trigger cycles of addiction. You know you aren’t as good as people say. How can you live up to your over-inflated reputation? People no longer console you.
– A sense of loneliness follows: when you feel invulnerable, your need for others vanishes, and relationships fade.
– Search out all of scripture and I’ll bet you won’t find more than a handful of people who God uses that were used in their “peak” – almost always, it is the humble, weak, even discarded that become the instruments of God. Think about that. Success = pride = useless to God.
– Pride’s near universal response to criticism: “They’re jealous of my greatness!” Whenever you hear someone implying that someone else is jealous of them, watch out! Pride is usually lurking in the area.
So…having concluded this tour, my next post will talk about the bigger point I’m hoping everyone will see here: that success isn’t an ideal to be dreamed about and celebrated in best selling books and airline magazines – it is spiritual poison. To make our way in the world, we may well be forced to drink some of it, but we should not label this bottle with a slick, alluring tag, hoping everyone will appreciate how great it is. Instead, we should carefully write the words: “WARNING: CONSUME WITH CAUTION!” in large, black letters.