Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”
— Mark 8:34–35
I have struggled with pride most of my life. Early on, it was because I was a good student. My pride took the immature form of a certain type of now-very-embarrassing thought along the lines of, “I’m better than you.” Thankfully, I never really said that. But even as I have worked spiritually for decades to elevate God to his rightful place in my mind and heart, and through confession to properly place myself near the bottom of the food chain, I find that pride is sneaky, and it shows up in subtle ways.
Throughout history, no one has been more deserving of elevating himself above everyone than Jesus. Yet, when faced with the opportunity, most significantly when he was being “led to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7), tried, convicted, and crucified, Jesus made no defense. He had ample opportunity to assert and save himself, but that was not Jesus’ way.
As I consider how my struggle with pride intersects with Jesus and following his way, releasing my rights — making them less important than my responsibilities and opportunities — has been significant. Strangely, there is nothing about Jesus that says, “I’m better than you,” despite the fact that he is. Instead, he humbly says, “I’m your servant, even unto death.” Jesus models the ultimate in humility, and anyone called to follow him is called to follow him into suffering in this way.
What does this look like? As I said, pride is sneaky and can show up in very subtle ways. When I get mad that someone cuts in front of me on the road or in the grocery store, in my heart of hearts, I know that it is because I feel disrespected. It is a humble act just to actually or metaphorically let someone get in front of me, whether it is technically their right or not. These days, I fear that we as a culture are too often focused on asserting our rights and voicing criticism almost every time we think it is deserved. We see it nowhere more than in the political realm, where most of us can agree that love and respect have been all but lost. Jesus never did any of this, and it is not what he calls his followers to.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
— Philippians 2:3
Is this suffering? That depends on how prideful we are to start with. Letting go of ourselves, denying ourselves of our rights, and extending grace to others can hurt at first. But as with anything inherently good and true, it bears good fruit. I have found myself feeling more and more free as I untether myself from insisting on my rights, and focusing instead on my role as a servant, following Jesus’ lead. It isn’t really suffering at all. Jesus has called us to freedom (Galatians 5:13), and through his own humble sacrifice and servanthood, he has shown us the way.