Pride can be a pitfall
July 21, 2006
Here is the summer camp story again. I have had some requests for it. I think some readers must have had similar experiences with pride.
There’s something unique about being at camp in the mountains. The mountains, the solitary atmosphere of old cabins tucked away in the pines … the city and its distractions seem far away.
I was taught a valuable lesson at camp years ago and I have never forgotten it. On that first day we arrived at camp, checked in our cabins and chose our bunks.
Then our counselor announced tryouts for camp pianist that afternoon. That was for me! I was excited because I had been taking lessons since the third grade and I thought I was qualified. Confident of my ability, I swelled up with pride in my heart. I was ready to impress everyone.
At tryouts, I played my favorite hymn. I added a little flip with my hands when I played the melody. I really impressed even myself! Then the director chose a hymn from the hymnal and I performed with a certain spiritual intensity (I thought!) evidenced by my pauses and upper body swaying. I strolled out of the open-air tabernacle stuffed with pride.
That night we sat for the service. The camp director took her place in front of the group of teenage girls to announce the girl chosen.The announcement was made but the name she called was not mine. I thought to myself: I can’t believe this! Don’t they realize that I am much better than she is?
I was disgusted and disappointed. My ego was hurt. The new pianist started that night. I was miserable all during the church service and did not hear a thing that was said.
I left after the closing prayer and started my lonely walk up the dimly lit footpath to my cabin. I was mad, perplexed and deeply disappointed.
Suddenly I heard a voice.
“Judy, Judy, wait up,” it said. “Wait for me.”
I turned around. It was the girl.
“Judy,” she said gasping for breath, “I thought I wasn’t going to be able to catch you. I ran all the way. You play so well, so much better than I do. But I really am happy that they chose me.”
Then she reached out to pat my arm. As she touched me there in the dim mountain moonlight, I noticed that her two middle fingers on her right hand were missing. A feeling of guilt just overwhelmed me.
“Oh ... thanks,” I said. “But you’re great with the piano and I really think you should have had the job.” I thought I was going to die right there on the trail with the dead pine needles and ancient rocks!
She left. I stood there for a minute and looked up at the million stars above me. I had been wrong —I had really thought I was something and had acted that way.
Now that I am older and hopefully more mature, I think of the passage in Galatians: “For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.”(6:3)
I believe that pride in the Christian life is the greatest pitfall. Pride won’t apologize, has a certain look, says “I am better than you,” hurts other people’s feelings, devalues another’s opinion, has no mercy and criticizes relentlessly.
I discovered on that night long ago the ugly lesson that a big dose of pride can teach. I have never forgotten.
Judy Brandon is an instructor at Clovis Community College. Contact her at: