So I know a young person, let’s call him Steve, and he likes to talk up how big of a man he is. Actually, I know loads of people like that, let alone young people, but I’m picking on him for now because he does it without the subtly that most people do. Steve ‘owns the area’. He uses different expressions than that, but that’s what he’s saying. He’s mouthing off about how no-one in this area can touch him because they all fear him or respect him too much. And there’s part of him that knows he’s over-stating his case but there’s another part of him that really believes it.
When this becomes a problem for Steve is when another guy makes a similar claim to him, they claim to own the area, not him. In real life I’ve seen this happen when Steve makes a comment like ‘if anyone wanted to have a go at me, I could get a hundred people down here just like that’ and then another guy makes a throw-away comment like ‘you reckon you could do that?’ to that outlandish boast. Then Steve feels compelled to answer, yes, yes I could do that, even though he was sort of only joking and knows he couldn’t. The other guy doubts it, he says ‘no way could you do that, maybe I could, but you couldn’t’. And now it’s a contest to see who can back down first, but no-one’s going to back down. The last time this happened –that I observed at least– only the careful intervention of a dozen or so friends could prevent Steve starting an actual fight with the other person.
The problem Steve’s got can simply be put as this; he’s proud. He’s proud, and won’t be shown up by anyone over something he values. There’s more layers on top of that, why he’s proud in that particular way, and what in society and culture and his upbringing led him to defend his pride in that manner, but at the base of it all, is this pride. And what’s the solution to that? Well you could go old-school drill-sargent and try and break down his pride by telling him that his pride is stupid and mis-placed and he’s got nothing to brag about anyway. But that probably won’t work. Or you can teach him to take pride in better things, like his skills at football or his ingenuity, but I’m not sure how helpful that would be. Or you could help him learn how to manage his anger so things don’t escalate. But that still leaves his pride.
Or instead you can show him Jesus, you can preach to him the good news. And if by the will of God Steve is saved, then his pride can be dealt with at the heart. Then he can see he has nothing to boast in except Jesus, and no need to prove himself to anyone. The root of his pride will be severed. Sure, it might not seem to be dead immediately, but just as a plant with it’s root cut off doesn’t loose it’s leaves immediately, so will pride one day die. Steve needs Jesus proclaimed to him, so he can see the foolishness of his pride and repent, and boast in someone better than himself.