Detecting Poisonous Pride In Marriage


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It’s present in every marriage because it lurks in every heart. Some have even erected thrones giving sacrifices to its preferences and desires. It is a wicked taskmaster that is never satisfied, and many Christians don’t acknowledge its presence much less its influence. This is when it has the most impact on marriages for their harm. What am I talking about?

PRIDE–Poisonous Pride.

In case you’re tempted to click the little X in the top right part of your screen, please resist. Pride doesn’t like to be visible, much less the topic of a blog post. It prefers to stay hidden where it is free to reign unchecked. How do I know? Because I gave it authority in my own heart for years–permission to infuse every thought, word and deed. Of course, I didn’t know I was doing it. I justified my prideful thoughts saying,  “that’s just who I am!”

The enemy loves us to identify with our sin because when we do, there is no hope.

If that’s “just the way I am” then there is no hope to ever change. However, if I put my identity in Christ where it should be, suddenly there is no room for pride. Christ is on the throne and pride must bow. Christ died to set us free from all sin, including the insidious pride we all received at birth.

In his excellent essay on Undetected Spiritual Pride, Jonathan Edwards offers 8 ways to help us identify its poisonous presence in our hearts:  (I’ve inserted “spouse” to help us examine our  marriage in light of spiritual pride.)

  1. It’s A Secret Enemy – Pride is much more difficult to be discerned than any other corruption because of its very nature.  That is, pride is a person having too high an opinion of himself.  Is it any surprise, then, that a person who has too high an opinion of himself is unaware of it?  His thinking is that he thinks that the opinion he has of himself has just grounds and therefore is not too high.  If the grounds of the opinion of himself crumbled, he would cease to have such an opinion. But, because of the nature of spiritual pride, it is the most secret of all sins.  There is no other matter in which the heart is more deceitful and unsearchable and there is no other sin in the world that men are so confident in. The very nature of it is to work self-confidence and drive away any suspicion of any evil of that kind.  There is no sin so much like the devil as this for secrecy and subtlety, and appearing in great many shapes that are undetected and unsuspected. 

    Spiritual pride takes many forms and shapes, one under another, and encompasses the heart like the layers of an onion: when you pull off one, there is another underneath.  Therefore, we have need to have the greatest watch imaginable over our hearts with respect to this matter and to cry most earnestly to the great Searcher of hearts for His help.  He that trusts his own heart is a fool.

  2. It Finds Fault – Spiritual pride causes one to speak of other persons [spouse] sins, their enmity against God and His people, or with laughter and levity and an air of contempt…The spiritually proud person shows it in his finding fault with other saints, that they are low in grace and how cold and dead they are, and are quick to discern and take notice of their deficiencies. 
  3. It Has A Harsh Spirit – It has been the manner of spiritually proud persons to speak of almost everything they see in others  [spouse]  in the most harsh, severe language.  It is frequent with them to say of other’s opinion, conduct, advice, coldness, silence, caution, moderation, prudence, etc. that they are from the devil
  4. It Puts On Pretenses – Spiritual pride often causes persons to act different in external appearance, to effect a different way of speaking, to use a different sort of dialect from others, or to be different in voice, countenance or behavior.  
  5. It Is Easily Offended – Spiritual pride takes great notice of opposition and injuries that are received [from a spouse]  and is prone to be often speaking of them and to be much in taking notice of their aggravation, either with an air of bitterness or contempt.
  6. It Is Presumptuous Before God And Man – Another effect of spiritual pride is a certain self-confident boldness before God and men.  Some, in their great rejoicing before God, have not paid sufficient regard to that rule in Psalm 2:11 — Worship the Lord with reverence, and rejoice with trembling. 
  7. It Is Hungry For Attention – Another effect of spiritual pride is to make the subject of it want attention.  People often tend to act in a special manner as though others ought to take great notice and regard of them.  It is very natural to a person that is very much under the influence of spiritual pride to take all the respect that is paid to him. If others show a disposition to submit to him and yield in deference to him, he is open to it and freely receives it.  It becomes natural for him to expect such treatment and to take much notice if a person  [spouse]  fails to do so, and to have an ill opinion of those who do not give him that which he feels he deserves. 
  8. It Neglects Others – As spiritual pride causes persons to assume much to themselves, so it treats others  [spouse] with neglect.   

If you’ve made it this far through the list, I pray God will use it to help you search your own heart for one or more of these evidences of pride in your heart. A good way to know is to ask your spouse if they see any of these evidences in you. If they answer “yes” and you react in your heart either with anger or offense, proceed with caution. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to this deadly poison. No one can do this for you, it is a personal work between the Spirit of God and you.

Are you willing to ask the question? 

Pride will kill you. Forever. Pride is the sin most likely to keep you from crying out for a Savior. Those who think they are well will not look for a doctor. – Fabienne Harford

For further study on these evidences of pride I recommend Fabienne Harford’s excellent post on the Desiring God’s website titled, Seven Subtle Symptoms of Pride.



About Debi Walter

Tom and Debi have been sharing encouragements through their blogs for many years. Marriage, Reading God's Word and documenting family history is our focus. Growing in our relationship with the Lord is primary in all we say, write or do. We are grateful for all who desire to join us in the same endeavors.
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3 Responses to Detecting Poisonous Pride In Marriage

  1. TrueAgape says:

    Thank you for this read! The other day I was having a conversation with my husband and afterwards I noticed I kept going back to this minor detail. I realized that I wanted him to admit he agreed with me or that I was right. I took note of that as a pride issue. Noticing it then has allowed me to pray about letting it go moving forward.


    • Debi Walter says:

      It’s amazing it isn’t it? How we can hone in on the details that don’t matter except to our pride. Seeing it is the beginning. Thanks for your willingness to share–we need to know we’re not the only ones who struggle.


  2. Pingback: The Healing Balm of Humility in Marriage | The Romantic Vineyard

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