We all value our thoughts enough to experience negative feelings when our opinions are met with disagreement. It stirs the same feelings of discomfort within us that come when our actions are met with disapproval. That's because there isn't one of us who enjoys having our wisdom and discernment questioned. It's why we find such strong pleasure in those who affirm us with their smiles of admiration and expressions of agreement.
The more we feel the need for man's approving affirmation, the more we'll move toward those who coddle us even as we actively distance ourselves from those who challenge us. The unfortunate fallout of this pride is that we end up eliminating the very people from our lives who have the greatest potential to expand our heart, stretch our mind, and broaden our perspective. Surrounding ourselves with those who revere our every word, we find our confidence in the company of people serving as malleable pawns who never checkmate our kingly status.
When met with disagreement, the negative feelings that stir within us erode our sense of control. Our fight or flight instinct kicks into high gear and it takes humble discipline to suppress it. It takes humble discipline that requires strong muscles of selfless love, muscles that are often atrophied from lack of exercise. When we value our comfort too much to do anything but recline on the couch while our egos are fanned, we are left with little strength to overcome our pride with the grace of humility.
When our prideful instincts have us holding a white-knuckled grip on control, we will always resort to intimidation. Always. That's because intimidation is the power play that most effectively limits the strength of others. We are all masterful at subduing the control of others out of desperate desire to secure our own.
There are three tools we use to play this game of prideful intimidation:
1. Intellectual, Emotional, and Physical Strength
We are all bullies by nature. Apart from Christ, there isn't one of us who isn't willing to exploit the weakness of another in order to save our own skin or satisfy our own hunger. If our pride doesn't take us to the playground where we throw a wicked left hook, it will take us to the courtroom where we will wield a wicked defense. And if it doesn't take us to the courtroom, it will take us to the shooting range where we will fire a wicked insult or accusation.
2. Power of Position
Only a prideful parent subdues the control of their child even as they refuse to release the grip on their own. Only a prideful pastor subdues the control of his congregation as he clutches tightly to his own. And only a prideful husband subdues the control of his wife even as he demands the right to his own. When we're in position of power, we hold the power of position to intimidate.
Disengagement (from meaningful relationship or conversation) can be the most destructive form of intimidation. That's because it often subdues control with the subtle leech of feigned innocence that can suck the life out of one's sanity. Disengagement is the power play of choice when we're desperate for control but know we lack muscle to survive disagreement.
If we're only thinking about the skilled way in which others employ these power plays of pride, it's a good sign that we're blind to the measure of our own sin. I don't write about this so we point fingers at others. I write about this so we will be driven to our knees in a desperate cry for grace.
Grace that has us disciplining ourselves in humility by the washing of the Word. Grace that has us moving toward people who challenge our hearts and our minds. Grace that has us humbly standing in the middle of difficult disagreement.
Grace that releases our prideful grip on control.