• Paul Coulter

Parental pride?

Where does parental pride slip over into real pride (you know, the really bad ‘deadly sin’ kind)? I sat in my son’s BB (Boys’ Brigade) parents’ night this evening and brimmed with pride as he participated with his peers. My daughter has her GB display later this week, but she already received two awards – first place in craft and second in Scripture (mirroring her dad’s crafty approach to the Word???) – at the dress rehearsal on Saturday past. Surely it’s ok for me as a parent to be pleased with my children’s achievements? Yes, I believe there is an appropriate parental pride, or perhaps I should call it delight or pleasure in our beloved children?


The strange thing on these occasions, though, is the competitiveness that emerges in the parents as we sit and watch. There’s no doubting that this tips us over the edge of appropriate pleasure in our kids into something unhealthy. I’m by no means immune – against all better judgement I feel a thrill when my son’s team wins two of the three relay races. Where does this animal instinct arise from? Why do we have such a drive to measure ourselves by comparison with others? Surely it doesn’t reflect God’s purpose in creation or redemption! It smacks to me of Eden’s lie and bears the distinct aroma of forbidden fruit. Competitiveness against anything other than Satan and comparison with any thing less than God’s glory are surely not the values of the kingdom.


Yet these values pervade our culture / in education, employment and entertainment (read sport). Even in a Bible College like the one in which I work there is a fundamentally competitive system, bound as we are to the standards and expectations of the secular academy. Do we believe in this system? How can we live and work within it without selling our souls to it and transferring it’s values into ministry? Sadly, Christian ministers and churches aren’t sacrosanct.


Only by keeping the cross at the centre of our theology and our practice can we displace the drive to justify our own value through achievement. Only death to self and utter dependence on Christ can turn out effort – and hard work and fulfilment of our God-given potential are virtues – into a response to grace rather than a drive for significance and recognition. Only Jesus’ example can take us out of our competitiveness to genuine cooperation in humility. Only the Spirit’s gentle leading can show us the path between appropriate pleasure in our gifts and performance, and those of our progeny, and the sinful pride that believes that glory for these should be ours rather than God’s. Lead us Lord and may we walk in the straight paths you prepare for us.

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