A couple of weeks ago, a friend asked me, “What is the most important piece of advice you’ve ever received?” That’s a difficult question to answer because I’ve received a lot of great advice over the years. The first thing that came to mind, though, was a message about pride shared with me back in elementary school.
On my first day of fourth grade I didn’t know anyone. It wasn’t the first time that I’d been the new kid in class. I was used to that by now. It was best to just blend in - experience had taught me that there would likely be a new school next year.
Good grades came easy to me because it was really easy to remember facts and information. When the time came for the class to select its representative for the annual regional spelling bee. I would have been a natural pick based on my high marks in Spelling, but a student named Andrew had represented the class every year since kindergarten. Our teacher decided to do a mini-bee between the two of us to see who would go to regionals.
I studied my butt off for weeks. The mini-bee took the form of a written test and the highest score would win. Although the list was comprised of hundreds of difficult words, I felt prepared and confident because of the work that I had invested.
After grading the tests, the teacher announced that I had won the mini-bee and, what’s more, I had achieved a perfect score. As she told the class how impressed she was at my score, I fought to keep a smile off my face - I didn’t want to gloat in my accomplishments.
My teacher saw my internal struggle and, a few moments later, pulled me into the hallway to share some wisdom that I’ll never forget:
Randy, you worked really hard on this, and you should be proud of what you did today. God made you with some incredible gifts, and you should be excited about what he’s doing in your life.
In high school a few years later, I was hanging out with my best friend, a guy from my youth group. As we were casually chatting, I could tell he had something heavy weighing on his mind and he was trying to decide how to confide in me. Finally he turned to me and said,
At church they always talk about the sin of pride and how we should eliminate it from our lives because it’s evil. I’ve been trying to live like that, but it really sucks. I feel like everything I do has some bit of pride in it. I can’t respect myself this way. It makes me want to give up. It’s like I can’t have any hope unless I can have some pride.
My friend and I went on to discuss pride and what it looks like in our lives. That conversation, like the one with my fourth grade teacher, is one that I’ll never forget.
I think we Christians tend to give pride a bad rap. We spend a lot of time talking about the dangers of excessive pride and arrogance (don’t get me wrong - those dangers are very real), but we spend precious little time talking about the other side of it. John Maxwell describes pride like this:
There are two kinds of pride, both good and bad. 'Good pride' represents our dignity and self-respect. 'Bad pride' is the deadly sin of superiority that reeks of conceit and arrogance.
When we truly understand how God cares for us, we can’t help but value ourselves and the work God is doing in and through us.
We are incredible creations of God (Eph. 2:10). None of us are perfect, but we’re all beautiful. He made us as wonderful works of art and we should take pride in that fact. Our value doesn’t come from what others think about us - it comes from God, who considers each of us priceless. We mean everything to Him, and we should be proud to be called his.
This doesn’t just impact our personal lives. It carries over into our professional lives, as well. Many of us work in careers that we find rewarding and spiritually fulfilling, but at the same time, many of us do work that seems fruitless and boring, as if it’s only purpose is to provide us with a paycheck.
Even when our job feels mundane, we need to remember that it has been given to us by God. He has placed us in that particular role for a reason (even if we’re not sure what that reason is), so we should perform our duty with conviction. We should work diligently, faithfully and proudly. Whether we’re serving food at Burger King or speaking to inspire audiences of millions, our service should be a point of pride because we’re doing God’s work in that role. (Eph. 6:5-9)
I am grateful that my fourth grade teacher and my high school friend taught me to take pride in I am and what God is doing in me.