Why I Stopped Saying “I’m Proud of You”


I’m pretty picky about the words I use. I try to speak clearly and concisely, and choose my words precisely.

There have been plenty of posts from me before talking about this sort of thing… from “His Name’s Not Lucifer” to “People Have Sex, Words Have Gender” to “What Does it Mean to BE Gay?” to “Yes You Are Black” to “The Dreaded A-Word” to “You’re Just Another Klansman” to “When I Criticize the Church” to “C.S. Lewis Was Wrong” to… it could go on.

Yes. I talk a lot about how we use words. I think it’s important.

Words are how we express ideas, and if you use the wrong words you might express the wrong idea, and I think the phrase “I’m proud of you” expresses the wrong idea. Here’s why.

Pride is the Chief of Sins

Pride is the chief of sins. C.S. Lewis has an amazing chapter in Mere Christianity devoted to the subject of pride, and another one in The Screwtape Letters. I’m tempted to just copy the whole thing here, but I’ll only copy a few key paragraphs.

“According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”

“Pride can often be used to beat down the simpler vices. Teachers, in fact, often appeal to a boy’s Pride, or, as they call it, his self-respect, to make him behave decently: many a man has overcome cowardice, or lust, or ill-temper by learning to think that they are beneath his dignity that is, by Pride. The devil laughs. He is perfectly content to see you becoming chaste and brave and self-controlled, provided, all the time, he is setting up in you the Dictatorship of Pride, just as he would be quite content to see your chilblains cured if he was allowed, in return, to give you cancer. For Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.”

Pride is, in essence, wanting to be God. Putting the self in God’s place as God. It’s wanting His job as creator and sustainer of all things, instead of your job as creature and servant. It was this very sin that began the fall. If you read chapter 3 of Genesis carefully, you will see that Eve wanted to be like God, wise, knowing (or I think a better word there might be “deciding”) good and evil. She wanted God’s job! She wanted to decide what was good instead of letting God BE what is good.

She wanted to create her own reality instead of living in the reality that God created.

That’s what pride is. It’s telling God that his way isn’t good enough. It’s doubting who God is. It’s saying, “Yeah, I know you are the ultimate definer of good and evil, and you are in ultimate control of this entire reality, but I’m going to take control now. I don’t really need you for this.”

It is this desire for control, this pride in our own ability over and above God’s, this self-magnification, that is the essential point of the sin nature. We want to make the rules. We want to control our lives. We want to be in charge of everything and determine reality as we know it. But the reality is, we can’t. You want proof? Consider this truth: Everyone dies. If you were really in control, you’d be able to stop that from happening, but you’re not and you can’t. There’s only one being in the universe with that power, and his name is YHWH, Jesus. He is the way the truth and the life, and He will judge the living and the dead.

This is why suicide is such a grievous sin, and is just another expression of pride. It is like a final middle finger to God. When you’re at the end, and He’s proving to you just how much you’re not in control of this reality and this life, instead of bending the knee and saying, “YOU are God, I am not,” you say, “You don’t get to tell me when it’s over. I say when it’s over!”

All of the sins get their sinfulness from pride, they are all just pride wearing a mask.

Greed seeks the magnification of self via materials, be it money, attention, or food. Lust is much the same. It seeks to magnify the self through pleasure. It is just pride expressed through desire. Anger, when it is sinful, is an emotional response to an offense against the idol of ME. Sloth is the magnification of self via luxury and relaxation. God said work, so we will not, because we follow our own rules. Pride is the magnification of self, as a replacement for the magnification of God, and it is pride that needs to die on Christ’s cross.

I’m trying to get you to see just how big and bad a sin pride is. It is the king sin. It is the root of all the others. Pride is the opposite of repentance, and repentance is needed for salvation. You must lay down your protest against God to be saved. You cannot be proud and be Godly. To take pride in anything is to rejoice in the very opposite of God, and there can be no salvation in that. Pride rejoices in the self. Humility rejoices in others and in God. This is why the whole of the law can be summed up in two commands: love the Lord your God with all of your being, and love your neighbor as yourself. There is no room for pride in that equation.

For this reason, I don’t ever want to be proud. (Note, that doesn’t mean I never am proud, and when I am I feel regret for it. It is a sin. I must repent of that pride.) And since I don’t want to be proud, I don’t want to be proud of anything, even someone else. I don’t want to take pride in anything. I want to rejoice in others and my God, not myself. Since I don’t want to take pride in anything, I don’t want to say I’m proud of anything, because either it’s not true, or it is and I don’t want it to be.

What to Say Instead

Some will protest. They will say, “Yes, but when I say, ‘I’m proud of you,’ I’m not rejoicing in myself. I’m rejoicing in another.”

To this I say two things:

(1) You may be right in your sentiment. When you say, “I’m proud of you,” you may actually be simply rejoicing in another. If that’s the case, I suggest a change of phrase. Try either “I’m happy for you!” or, what I find more accurate, “You bring me joy.” “You bring me joy,” communicates the sentiment nicely. You are taking joy in someone else doing good. This is a noble endeavor. This is probably what you actually mean when you say, “I’m proud of you.” So why not say what you actually mean, instead of claiming to sin because of someone? What’s more, it’s foreign to most people’s ears, and so they might actually listen to you better when you say it.

(2) However, you may be lying to yourself. If you have a strongly negative reaction to the mere idea of replacing the phrase “I’m proud of you,” with, “You bring me joy,” then you may actually be proud of that person, and that’s a terrible thing. You may actually use the accomplishments of another to prop yourself up. You may actually be trying to steal someone else’s good deeds, commandeer their helpfulness, and take credit for charities and accomplishments in which you had no part. Maybe you subconsciously think you deserve it! They owe their success to you in some way, so you share in their good deeds. If you actually are PROUD of someone, you magnify yourself because of someone, you should not be so, and you should repent.

I’m not saying this necessarily is you, but I ask you to consider it. When your child graduates from high school and you tell them how “proud” you are of them, are you trying to slip yourself in there too? If not, I encourage you to change your phraseology. Do you ever wonder how such a heinous sin took on such a “harmless” meaning?

I realize that many will call me far too picky for this one. I can live with that; I’m used to it. I know that when you say that you’re “proud” of someone, usually it’s just good feelings of support behind it. But I know that, for myself, pride is too pernicious a sin to trifle with it in my language. It’s too easy to tell someone they bring me joy, not to do it and avoid a foothold in my phraseology for the devil to climb in.

So, if you like this post, and you tell me you’re proud of me, I promise not to judge you for it. I promise I won’t question your motives or get you to change your wording. But I think it’s something you should consider yourself. Weigh these questions in your own mind and heart. Ask yourself why you’re really “proud,” and ask if you really should be.


9 thoughts on “Why I Stopped Saying “I’m Proud of You””

  1. Yes! Rejoice in the Lord in them. Putting emphasis on what God has allowed them to accomplish through Him. For your children, how God has helped you raise them well. Even Paul in Philippians 1 says “I thank God for you” what’s God is doing in them and using them for, to further the GOSPEL! He did not say “I am proud of you”. We don’t neee to be raising little narcissists and puffing up peoples ego. We are nothing without God. All sinners who are given our very breath by God. As the psalm says what is man that He would be mindful of him?

  2. I happened on this post to see if the thought was preposterous. Thank you I believe now that it IS God’s sentiment. I am changing my phrase. AND thanks for the suggested substitutions. I had only thought of, “I praise God that He blessed you to….”

  3. Thank you for sharing your post it has been helpful to me. Your writing brings much joy to me. May God bless you

  4. This was so well expressed. I would like to see you write a companion piece on why we SHOULD feel shame.

  5. You know, sometimes we get a revelation and think, “this is amazing… let me Google it and see if anyone else has it?,” and sure enough, there’s usually many who have already submitted their hearts to be enlightened to what I finally just understood for the first time.

    That’s the case here. I just now came to understand this concept over the past few weeks as a result of studying to understand the depths and allures of sin, from my Christian perspective. When you start studying the sins listed in the Bible (as defined by Jesus, Paul, John, The Law of Moses), it all leads back to this very thing… PRIDE.

    A normal person, with any amount of common sense should be able to link the idea of words and semantics of the English language to something so simple as the words “PROUD” AND “PRIDE” as loosely used by MANY (((((EVEN IN THE CHURCH))))) but I don’t think that happens unless God reveals it to the ones who are seeking His heart for wisdom and understanding!

    I live in the south (Heart of the Bible Belt) where we’re “proud” of everything, sometimes with only vain fascination, i.e., football, little league accomplishments, parents, raising, our kids, jobs, personal achievements…. Giving the thanks and glory to God for none of it, as if we ever had the ability to do anything on our own. However, we have taken for granted that the very words we speak have power and meaning in the spirit, even if we say them with the right sentiment in our heart. For we will give an account for every idle word, intented or not. Saying “I’m proud of ___________,” has an effect spiritually…. our culture and the Church says it, all the time!

    Just replace the sentiment in heart and words we speak with THANKS AND THANKFULNESS TO GOD when pride attempts to be center stage. The Apostle Paul was always thankful to God to/for everything and everyone.

    THANK YOU…. for so eloquently and precisely defining this topic in truth!

    P.S. Study the verse, HAVE FAITH IN GOD Mark 11:22 – in particular the word “HAVE.” In Greek it’s the word “ecko.” It’s where we get the English word, ECHO – repeating sound. The Greek definition includes the term continuity. Ekho is also, a VERB. Greek Mythology (demonic alternative) has a character named Ecko – add that to the study of this verse as well. It’s an awesome revelation once you get it.

  6. I totally get what you’re saying. This is one of the reasons why the gay community bothers me so much. I am sickened that they celebrate sinning with the additional sin of being proud of their sinful life. Pride week, Pride month, and Pride parades. I was trying to explain this concept when a friend who is gay asked “so, why not just have a Christian Pride parade?” Duh?! Because I’m humbled to be a Christian, and you’re right, Christianity brings me joy, but it shouldn’t be a source of pride, which is a sin. I think it’s that concept that bugs me about the local televangelist: the Pride he takes in being a Christian (and a monetarily successful one at that!).

  7. Thank you so incredibly much and may God richly bless you for writing and sharing this oh-so-vital message Stephen!!! I have been trying for years to help people understand this and you have put it into a perspective that cannot be skirted around in the ways that I have seen happen when trying to address this with friends, family and associates!!!!

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