I’m one of those nerds who took Greek in high school and absolutely loved it. One of things we had to read was Greek mythology. There’s this story that explains why people have ‘another half’.
You see, when the gods created humans, or so the story goes, they all had four arms, four legs, two heads, etc. But man became convinced they were god-like and tried to storm Mount Olympus where the gods resided. They were punished by being cut in half so that they had to spend the rest of their lives looking for their other half.
In reading this story, I learned a new word, one that I never forgot. Man’s sin against the gods was called hubris. Hubris is excessive pride or self-confidence, arrogance or insolence. In Greek tragedies it’s often hubris that leads to the main character’s downfall.
Hubris can (subtly) manifest itself in different ways, but here are some warning signals:
- Thinking and speaking of the ministry your serve in as ‘your’ ministry that ‘you have build’
- Not being able to handle criticism well, becoming very defensive and aggressive
- Never asking for feedback or criticism
- Lack of prayer in your personal life, only praying when you ‘have to’, when it’s expected
- Distancing yourself from God, keeping God at arm’s length
- Organizing services, events, etc on routine without asking for God’s input
- Criticizing others who aren’t doing a good job
- Little tolerance for mistakes and failure
- Constantly comparing your ministry with that of others
- Talking more about your ministry, yourself, your goals/wishes/vision etc than about Jesus
- Taking credit for how the ministry is doing
- Sliding into a more authoritarian leadership style, while rejecting the leadership above you
- Closing yourself off to the advice of others, especially other believers
- Believing yourself to be unmissable and irreplaceable
Do your recognize these warning signals in your own life or that of others? Then act. Don’t let hubris take you or anyone else down. Because God will only allow hubris for so long, before He intervenes. God is the only God, He is almighty and sovereign, and He does not take it lightly when leaders become proud and claim honor only He deserves.
If it’s your own hubris, repent. Tell God what you see in yourself, confess your sin, and ask for His forgiveness. Better yet, ask for His help to change. Study His Word and let your thoughts be filled with the knowledge that He is God, and that we are but dust, broken vessels that God can use by His grace. Then try to find someone who will help you fight the hubris in your life together, someone you can trust to tell you the truth.
If you recognize these signs in someone else, you may have a battle on your hands. You see, one of the signals of hubris is that people who are prideful, aren’t open to criticism or any kind of correction. So this person isn’t going to accept your criticism with an open heart.
You’ll have to start with praying and asking God for wisdom. Ask Him to confirm your suspicions and then pray for he right way to handle it. Maybe you need to tell the person directly, either in person or in a letter. Maybe it’s better to talk to someone else (an elder, a spouse, anyone else close to him/her). Whatever you do, do it prayerfully and with love, but be firm and clear. It may save a life…or a ministry.
Have you ever seen someone suffer from hubris? What did you do?