“But after he had become strong, he became proud to his own destruction and broke faith with the Lord.” (2 Ch. 26:16)
How difficult it is to handle success without pride overtaking us!
Uzziah became king of Judah when he was 16 and reigned in Jerusalem for 52 years. At first he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. He sought God through the prophet, Zechariah. He built up the defenses of Judah, raised a large army that defeated the Philistines and constructed public works. As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.
But the Bible reports he then presumed to enter the temple to burn incense, a duty reserved to the descendants of Aaron. They challenged him, he became angry and as he was raging at them, leprosy broke out on his forehead, which caused him to be isolated for the rest of his life.
In my 38 year career with a large oil company, I saw a number of good men who experienced success, only to see a pride build up in them that led to overreach in the exercise of their authority and subsequent downfall. I too, struggled at times with pride in how I related to others, and in allowing my position to define who I was.
Even the disciples, James and John, sought the position of sitting at Jesus’ right and left. The others became indignant, but Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant…For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” (Mk. 10:43, 45) The reason Jesus said it was easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than a rich man into the Kingdom of God is because of the pride that often accompanies wealth and worldly success.
Our daughter, Emily has Down syndrome. I have learned so much about humility and the love of God from her. She does not presume any special position, only to love her family and friends and to experience our love in return.
One of the problems with how we handle success is its definition. The world views success in terms of position, authority, power, and wealth, while God views success in terms of whether we are fulfilling his will for our lives. If our focus is on seeking God’s will, we might be better able to handle success however it is defined.
In my morning prayer I sometimes recite a Litany of Humility given me by a friend.
“O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, deliver me from the desire of being esteemed, loved, extolled, honored, praised, consulted or approved. Deliver me from the fear of being humiliated, despised, forgotten, ridiculed or wronged. Grant me the grace to desire that others might be loved more, esteemed more, chosen, praised, preferred, and become holier than I, provided that I become as holy as I should.”
How do you deal with success and pride in your life?