Can Pride be Good?

Somebody asked:

Dear Glenn,

You wrote somewhere:

"If we did NOT feel good-pride when ‘approved’, and did NOT feel shame when ‘disapproved’, then we are NOT HEALTHY! "

The problem is that I tend to regard good-pride as too much already. I reject it as unspiritual. This bars any possibility of satisfaction in my life, and also I don't know many things I ought to be satisfied about.

My life is a failure in so many respects... 

Please help.


I replied with:

Chew on these comments below, friend (done in  a hurry -- I hope the fonts transfer)--let the scripture transform your view--but remember, there is always a difference between pride (which does NOT produces division) and arrogance (which does)...traveling today...warmly, glenn


1. The first sentence here says it all, and points you to the scripture verses for you to meditate on:

“Although the apostle Paul speaks of a healthy pride we should have in ourselves and others (2 Cor 5:12; 7:4; 8:24; Gal 6:4), the word pride in Scripture is more frequently used to refer to a very negative character trait that can be described as arrogant, conceited and haughty. Classical Greek and Roman cultures had a particular aversion to it, stigmatizing it as hubris and making virtually all their literary tragedies a variation on the theme of the self-destructive effects of pride and its offensiveness to the gods. In the Bible, likewise, such pride brings disgrace (Prov 11:2), breeds quarrels (Prov 13:10), goes before destruction (Prov 16:18) and brings humiliation (Prov 29:23). [Ryken, L., Wilhoit, J., Longman, T., Duriez, C., Penney, D., & Reid, D. G. (2000, c1998). Dictionary of biblical imagery (electronic ed.). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.]


2. Since it is dangerous MOST OF THE TIME (when it goes BEYOND its proper bounds), it can still be seen as a virtue at its core—as the first paragraph of this biblical dictionary can point out:


A reasonable or justifiable self-respect; or improper and excessive self-esteem known as conceit or arrogance. The apostle Paul expresses a positive kind of pride when speaking of confidence in Christians (2 Cor 7:4) or of strength in the Lord (2 Cor 12:5, 9). However, it is the latter sinful meaning of pride which most frequently appears in the Bible, both in the OT and the NT.

The 10 Hebrew and 2 Greek words generally used for pride refer to being high or exalted in attitude, the opposite of the virtue of humility, which is so often praised and rewarded by God. One other Greek word refers to a person’s being puffed up or inflated with pride or egotism. The idea is that one gives the impression of substance but is really filled only with air (see, e.g., 1 Cor 5:2; 8:1; 13:4; Col 2:18).

Pride is basically a sin of attitude and of the heart and spirit. Hence one reads, “Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin” (Prv 21:4). Ecclesiastes 7:8 speaks of “proud in spirit” and the psalmist declares, “O Lord, my heart is not proud, or my eyes haughty” (Ps 131:1 nasb). Pride is cited in the two lists of the most glaring sins in the Bible. Along with the sins for which God is going to judge the Gentiles, one finds insolence, arrogance, and boasting (Rom 1:30). Included with the sins that will be prevalent in the last days, Paul includes boasting, arrogance, and conceit (2 Tm 3:2, 4).

As so many of the sins of attitude, pride cannot remain internalized. It can infect one’s speech; and boasting is one way by which this sin can appear in one’s speaking (see the passages referred to above and also Mal 3:13). Pride can also appear in the way one looks at another person. Hence the Scriptures speak of “haughty eyes” in Proverbs 6:17, or, as some translators render it, “a proud look.” The psalmist speaks of a person with “haughty looks and arrogant heart” as one he cannot endure (Ps 101:5; see also Prv 30:13.) Pride may also take the ugly form of contemptible treatment of others (Prv 21:24). One of the illustrations of this in the Bible is the way in which the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders treated and spoke of those beneath their social level (e.g., Mt 23:6–12; Jn 9:34). They especially despised tax collectors and sinners.

Outstanding examples of proud people can be found in both Testaments. Pride was the downfall of King Uzziah who, because of this sin, dared to offer incense on the altar of incense and was smitten with leprosy as his punishment from God (2 Chr 26:16). Hezekiah, after his healing by the Lord, became proud of heart and brought wrath upon himself, Judah, and Jerusalem (2 Chr 32:25, 26). The Pharisee in the temple, praying and comparing himself with the humble tax collector, is another example (Lk 18:9–14). Herod’s refusal to give God the glory for his greatness brought judgment from God and he was eaten by worms and died for his sin of pride (Acts 12:21–23). In fact, Ezekiel 28, which describes the pride of the leader of Tyre, is taken by many biblical scholars to refer, in a deeper sense, to the fall of Satan back in the beginning.

Pride cannot only bring the downfall of individuals but also of nations. This was the sin which is specifically mentioned as leading to other sins and which ultimately brought about the removal of both Israel and Judah from the land of Canaan (Is 3:16; 5:15; Ez 16:50; Hos 13:6; Zep 3:11). It is also the specific sin which brought about the downfalls of the king of Assyria (Is 10:12, 33) and the king of Moab (Jer 48:29). Because of its deadliness, Israel is specifically warned against pride and the tendency to forget God which so often stems from it (Dt 8:14).

In the light of the preceding, it is no surprise to read that pride is one of the seven things which the Lord hates (Prv 6:17). It is also said by two different writers that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (see Jas 4:6 and 1 Pt 5:5; see also Prv 3:34 and 18:12, to which James and Peter may be referring.) The words of Mary, the mother of Jesus, in her hymn of praise to God may summarize the attitude of God and the Bible toward pride: “[God] has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered [those who were] proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from [their] thrones and exalted those who were humble” (Lk 1:51, 52 nasb). [Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Baker encyclopedia of the Bible. Map on lining papers. (Page 1752). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House.]


3. Even Lexicons based on semantic domains have entries for ‘pride (legitimate)’ [THEIR parenthetical term, not mine!]

"Pride (legitimate) (25.203-25.205)

25.203  καύχημαd, τος n: the basis for or the content of one’s feeling of legitimate pride—‘basis of pride, reason for being proud.’ ἵνα τὸ καύχημα ὑμῶν περισσεύῃ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ ἐν ἐμοί ‘in order that you may have every reason to be proud of me in your union with Christ Jesus’ Php 1.26; καύχημα ὑμῶν ἐσμεν καθάπερ καὶ ὑμεῖς ἡμῶν ‘that we may be the reason for your pride even as you are the reason for ours’ or ‘that you will be as proud of us as we shall  be of you’ 2 Cor 1.14. For another interpretation of καύχημα in 2 Cor 1.14, see 33.371.

25.204  καύχησιςc, εως f: the state of being rightfully proud—‘pride, to be proud.’ πολλή μοι καύχησις ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν ‘I am so proud of you’ 2 Cor 7.4.

25.205  δόξαi, ης f: the reason or basis for legitimate pride—‘pride.’ ὑμεῖς γάρ ἐστε δόξα ἡμῶν καὶ χαρά ‘for you are our pride and joy’ 1 Th 2.20. [Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996, c1989). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (Vol. 1, Page 310). New York: United Bible societies.] 

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