Have you ever met someone who seemed to know so much, and presented themselves as very smart, and yet for some reason you couldn’t seem to get along with them? Maybe they came off as rather condescending, or even self-righteous.
Or maybe you’re one of those people. Do you consider yourself an intelligent person? Even if you say you are kind of naïve, or some things go over your head, most of us believe that—to some degree at least—we are pretty intelligent people.
We are very egotistical by nature, and our first instinct is anything but humility (Proverbs 11:2). It can be a difficult thing to fight against the conceit that is so deeply engrained in our hearts. The dark veins of pride work their way into every corner of our lives. The vanity in our hearts is like a wet cloth; no matter how much you try to wring it out, you’ll never get the cloth to be fully dry (Romans 12:3).
But don’t be discouraged. God promises there is still hope for the prideful Christian (Romans 6:15-23). The Lord has given us the resources and opportunities to fight against our sins, and sins of conceit are no exception.
One of the most valuable things the Lord has given us is the company and advice of other Christians; these are some of the best tools to fight against your ego. When we truly listen to the thoughts and advice of another Christian, it is like a brief moment of escape from our pride (Proverbs 13:10). The perspectives of other Christians are vitally important to maintaining good spiritual health (Proverbs 1:7).
Imagine a man is stuck in a room with another person, and he can’t figure out how to get out. He’s tried everything he can think of, but to no avail. He is out of ideas. The other person has been watching him this whole time, and finally, when given a chance to speak, she tells the man she’s been in this same situation before, and she knows exactly how to get out of the room! How fortunate, right? But the man refuses to listen to her. “No!” He says, “I can do it on my own. I’m very sharp, and I’ll figure it out.”
What a ridiculous thing to say. Obviously the wisdom of the second person would be extremely useful to this man. The only thing standing in the way of his freedom is his pride (Proverbs 12:15).
Most of us have been this man at some point. We stubbornly refuse the advice of people who lovingly try to steer us in the right direction… people who are more experienced than we are, who are more knowledgeable than we are, and only want what’s best for us; and yet in our ignorance we refuse their help, believing we have everything we need in our own minds.
If you aren’t willing to listen to anyone else, believing you already have all the answers, then you are headed in the wrong direction. That kind of pride can only lead to misery (Proverbs 16:18). It will ruin your relationship with Christ, and ruin your relationships with family and friends as well.
You may be a very smart and thoughtful person, but if you won’t listen and take to heart the advice of people who care about you, then you don’t have an ounce of wisdom (Proverbs 15:5).
There is an immense difference between being intelligent and being wise, and the true mark of wisdom is someone who knows they aren’t wise (Proverbs 17:10).
I encourage you to go sit and listen to your parent(s) or grandparent(s), or an older believer. Let them tell you stories and talk about their faith. They might not be the wittiest person ever, but I guarantee you there is a wealth of wisdom and kindness somewhere in their stories (Proverbs 19:20).
We are called to guard our hearts carefully against arrogance. If we cover our ears so as not to hear the advice of other Christians, this will be an impossible task. The Lord has placed people in our lives to keep us on the straight and narrow. That is a wonderful and necessary blessing, so let’s take advantage of it (James 1:5).