Parental Pride vs. Sinful Pride

Is it wrong for me as a parent to feel proud of my child and to tell him so? I understand that, from a human perspective, it's normal and natural to feel this way. But as a Christian I know that the Bible has some very severe things to say about the sin of pride. I'm worried that I may be instilling a false and worldly value system into my son when I say, "I'm proud of you." What are your thoughts on this?

As we see it, there is a very important distinction to be drawn between the kind of pride that leads to sin and the pride that moms and dads feel in their children.

We’d suggest that when a parent says, “I’m proud of my son,” he or she is actually expressing a sense of delight in the son and a feeling of deep satisfaction with what the son has been able to accomplish. It’s essentially the same thing as saying, “I love my son.” This type of “pride” is other-centered, and as a result there can be nothing sinful about it. God the Father indulged in it Himself when, at Jesus’ baptism, He spoke from heaven and said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).

Something similar can be said about the “pride” that a skillful craftsman derives from a job well done. Properly understood, this “pride” represents an appreciation of objective qualities that exist outside the self. God felt this kind of pride when He looked upon everything He had made and saw that it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

We should add that children desperately need to know that they are loved and appreciated in this way. Their sense of self-esteem – in other words, their understanding that they are made in God’s image and are thus worthy of experiencing and participating in His glory and grace – is based largely on the input they receive from their parents. They tend to grow up seeing themselves as mom and dad see them. Tragically, many kids don’t get this at home. When a young person has been crushed and shattered by regular subjection to taunts, insults, and rejection, it’s absolutely vital to reassure him that he is valuable in the sight of God. He needs to be reminded that not only is he a human being made in the Creator’s image, but he is also an individual for whom Christ died. This isn’t a question of inflating anybody’s ego. It’s simply a matter of providing healing and restoration for those who need it most.

The Bible has something very different in mind when it says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Perhaps this would become clearer if we were to translate the word “pride” as “arrogance” or “haughtiness.” That, after all, is exactly what it means in the scriptural context. When John describes the “world” as “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the sinful pride of life” (1 John 2:16), he’s not thinking of the warm feeling you get when you think about a loved one or when you go out of your way to help someone in need. Instead, he’s warning you against the seductive notion that you don’t need God – that you can get along very well on your own and can in fact become a little “god” in your own right. This is the kind of pride that lies at the root of all human sin. Satan understood this when, in the Garden of Eden, he enticed Eve to eat the forbidden fruit by saying, “In the day you eat of it you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).

If you have further questions, please feel free to call our pastoral counselors.


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