If you had cancer, you’d want to know, right? Nobody wants to be ignorant when a little bit more of them dies each day. Nobody who finds out they have cancer will do nothing. Instead, we will get help, research all the possible treatments, and make whatever changes are necessary to eradicate it from our body. But we won’t do any of this if we don’t know what this spiritual cancer is or how subtle and destructive it is.
Pride is spiritual cancer
C. S. Lewis described pride as spiritual cancer. Where cancer will destroy tissue, Lewis said that pride “eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.”1 If we left it there, we might think that the worst thing we could say about pride is that it will make your life hard, or perhaps ruin your life. But the word cancer is accurate because it is so subtle and destructive.
“Pride is spiritual cancer – C.S. Lewis”
Spiritual cancer makes us an enemy of God
Pride creates enmity between you and God. There is no-one and nothing in this world greater than God. He is immeasurably superior to you and I. He immeasurably greater in power. He has incomprehensibly more understanding. He is separate from every created thing in almost every possible way.
Pride stops us from realizing and recognizing the greatness of God. Instead of seeing God for who He is, pride refashions my idea of myself into a distorted image of God so that I become the center of existence instead of God. Pride will cause us to recast God so that He becomes our therapist, or servant, or gift-giver, or lover, or the supplier of whatever I want or desire. Pride makes God our servant, or more accurately, pride refashions the supreme Creator and God into a benevolent but distant father who loves to spoil us if only we’d tell him how.
Pride brings God down to our level, denying His worth of worship, rejecting His claim to lordship, denying His purpose as creator, and abandoning our dependence upon Him. As Paul said, we no longer honor Him as God or give thanks (Rom 1:21).
God describes the wicked as those who regard Him as someone like us (Ps 50:16-21). He goes on to point out that there is none who can deliver from His hand (Ps 50:22).
By bringing God down to our level and elevating ourselves above the status He has given us, we make God into our enemy. The worst thing is that pride does this subtly, working like undetected cancer, slowly changing our understanding and turning us against God.
Spiritual cancer makes life difficult
When we believe that God is less than He really is, we distort our perception of the reality we live in. Our beliefs are no longer accurate because they are rooted in a fundamental lie. Our ideas of the world no longer accurately reflect the reality around us. Pride adds imaginative ingredients that distort our perception of reality in subtle but critical ways.
This altered belief system affects our reasoning, influences our emotions and governs what we do. The result is that our hearts are darkened, we become fools and our desires are increasingly corrupted (Rom 1:20-32). Rather than being guided by biblical principles, our corrupted desires drive what we think and do. Pride does this subtly, functioning like undetected spiritual cancer.
It is our pride that makes us appear obnoxious to others. It makes us speak when we should be silent. It will make us say things that are hurtful to others, violating their trust and undermining their respect. Pride leads us to make rivals of friends and family so that we argue and fight over silly little things. Pride will make us buy things we can’t afford, fight things we should support, do things we will regret, demand things we don’t deserve and want things we don’t need.
The truth is that it is our pride that causes our broken hearts, crushed dreams, bruised egos, lack of respect, and the ruined lives that is part of much of our experience.
Pride, like cancer, feeds on anything it can get to destroy everything it touches.
Pride, like cancer, feeds on anything it can get to destroy everything it touches. It is the cause that creates the symptoms of a bad life that we attempt to treat by saying nice things to ourselves. Unfortunately, this therapy just feeds the cause and changes the symptoms.
Spiritual cancer denigrates others
While it is true that pride will make your life worse, it will do the same for other people too. Pride is inherently competitive. Pride demands more for me, and others are forced to provide it. It exalts me over others, and others have to hear about it. If someone else has something you want, pride will make that person into a rival or enemy until you get what you want or something better. Pride will take a friendly rivalry and escalate it into envy, jealousy, bitterness, deceit, broken relationships and war.
Pride does this subtly, turning you against those closest to you – your spouse, or your children tend to experience the worst of it.
Pride doesn’t just impact you. It denigrates and destroys those you love the most. All because it subtly seeks to exalt us over them.Pride doesn’t just impact you. It denigrates and destroys those you love the most Click To Tweet
Spiritual cancer we all have.
Unlike cancer, you don’t need to wait for a diagnosis. You have spiritual cancer. Pride is built right into us. We have it from birth because it is part of the corruption we endure since Adam’s disobedience.
While we’re in our body, pride accompanies us wherever we go. It’s always there, ready to inflate our self-importance and prompt us to look down on others. Pride is what is behind that desire for respect or love you have. Pride is what makes us abusive to others, what rejects authority and resists correction. Pride is behind those stubborn, secret lusts we have that slowly destroy us. Sinful pride is behind most the rights we like to think we’re entitled to.
The choice to pursue humility
We can’t get rid of this spiritual cancer entirely until our body dies. But we can beat it into some form of remission. The pursuit of humility requires that we treat pride as the spiritual cancer it is. We cannot pursue humility on the one hand, while we hold onto our pride with the other. The pursuit of humility requires that we have the right mindset, but to have the right mindset demands that we understand the seriousness of our situation. This spiritual cancer appears to want to make you greater, but in reality, it seeks to destroy your relationship with God and ruin your life and the lives of those you love. The results of this battle will truly ring through eternity. If we’re to grow in humility, we have to recognize that our pride is our greatest enemy.
How have you experienced the effects of your spiritual cancer? Leave a comment below to warn others of it’s subtlety.
- C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Harper Colins, 1980), 124. ↩