Pride is creative, putting me at the center in all kinds of subtle ways. It can make eyes haughty, looking down on others. It can make eyes busy, always looking around evaluating what others are thinking, especially how they’re perceiving me. In that way, arrogance and insecurity, though very different, are the destructive love of self.
Such pride is nothing less than idolatry. It’s a sin requiring repentance and forgiveness.
“There is no universe small enough for me or you to be the center.”
It’s also terribly stupid. There is no universe small enough for me or you to be the center. Our attempts at building our own name are so laughable, God has to come down to see them (Genesis 11:5). And our efforts to control our own reputations are a grueling race without a finish line.
So, how do we deal with this pride? What are the weapons against the love of self? God has given us many: prayer, the Scriptures, accountability, fellowship, and more. But I think one underappreciated tool of warfare God has given us is congregational singing. Both the vertical and horizontal aspects of congregational song war against our pride.
Bigger God, Smaller You
The best Christian hymnody invites us to praise and dwell on the Father, Son, and Spirit. And many of the psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs we sing are loaded with truth that, when wed to the right melody, seeps into our souls until we soar above ourselves.
If you do this each week, lifting your voice with God’s people and setting your gaze heavenward, a beautiful thing happens: you forget yourself.
It’s difficult to be self-centered when you sing,
Behold him there, the risen lamb,
my perfect righteousness,
the great unchangeable I Am,
the king of glory and of grace!
It’s nearly impossible to be the center of your world when you sing,
This is my Father’s world;
the battle is not done.
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
and earth and heav’n be one.
Being awed at the majesty of God swallows up self-absorption. As John Piper has said, no one walks away from the Grand Canyon with a bigger view of himself. It was this insight — that life isn’t about me — that I found so liberating when I read Don’t Waste Your Life in college. It was a Copernican revolution in my soul. With the glory of God at the center, I began learning what life was for and how it was to be lived. When we sing to God about his glory, we see more of how gloriously big he really is, and we become joyfully small again.
Love to Forget Yourself
Congregational singing is unique because — to state the obvious — it happens with other people. Learn to get past yourself and listen to those around you on Sunday. Enjoy the experience of singing with and hearing the people who share your Lord, Savior, and Treasure.
“If you don’t like singing your love for God in this life, you may not be ready for the next.”
All of this God-and-others-centeredness will liberate you. The less you’re concerned with yourself, the more free you will be to love and serve others — and the less tempted you’ll be to judge or measure or be threatened by them. This doxological self-forgetfulness is true humility; there is no room for pride in the heart swollen with love for God and neighbor.
This is why C.S. Lewis said that, in the pursuit of humility, “It is better to forget about yourself altogether,” and that the humble person, “will not be thinking about himself at all.” Humility wants what John the Baptist wanted, for Christ to increase while we decrease (John 3:30).
The best way to push out the love of self is to replace it with love for God and others. And what gets to our affections more quickly and directly than singing? I agree with Andy Crouch when he writes that, “Singing may be the one human activity that most perfectly combines heart, mind, soul, and strength.”
Maybe you don’t think of yourself as someone who sings, but given that Moses (Exodus 15:1), David (the psalter), Jesus (Matthew 26:30), and Paul (Acts 16:25) all sang, may I gently urge you to reconsider? Because if you don’t like singing your love for God in this life, you may not be ready for the next.
“There is no room for pride in the heart swollen with love for God and neighbor.”
Scripture makes clear that the redeemed will join together to sing a new song to the Lamb in the life to come. And the scene around the heavenly throne won’t be polluted by pride anymore. The glory will have overwhelmed and satisfied us completely. We will dwell in self-forgetful bliss forever.
You can get ready for that day by lifting up your voice this Sunday. Let the words sink in as you sing them, and let the truth set you free from yourself.