Positive Pride

Language is weird. It’s a well-known fact that the same word can have multiple meanings. But every year I hear someone try to draw a connection between LGBTQ pride and the cardinal sin of pride. The connection has never been very convincing to me. I think in most cases, it’s essentially just a troll, barely more than a play on words meant to score points with those on one side and annoy those on the other. Insofar as the comparison is taken seriously though, I think it’s useful to take a more deliberate look at the word, its meanings, and its usage. Not that I consider myself an expert on LGBTQ pride; I’m a cis straight man who’s never had to think much about how others see my own orientation or gender identity. But I’ve been doing my best to learn and grow in my understanding. (And on that note, I welcome any corrections or additional insights in furtherance of that goal.)

When I think of the actual sin of pride, I think of something said by a late president of my church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Speaking of the sin of pride, he said, “Pride is essentially competitive in nature,” and, “The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen.” So one aspect of the sin of pride is thinking oneself better or more important than others. And right off the bat, I can say I’ve literally never heard of anyone thinking they were better than someone else because they themselves were LGBTQ. When it comes to enmity toward God and our fellowmen, I can think of examples of LGBTQ individuals who are hostile towards religion and religious individuals. However, this has much less to do with their orientation or identity, and much more to do with how they and others have been treated by those people and organizations. One certainly hopes that in time they might find peace and healing through forgiveness and reconciliation. But those who struggle to do so are far from unique in that regard. In short, if anyone who is LGBTQ is guilty of the sin of pride, it probably has little or nothing to do with them actually being LGBTQ.

When I think of the word “pride” in the context of LGBTQ pride, I tend to think of the much more positive usages of the word. For instance, when a parent tells their child, “I’m proud of you.” Or when a patriotic individual sings, “I’m Proud to Be an American.” Or when we tell someone who has worked hard on a personal goal that they should be “proud” of their accomplishments. In these examples, the word means having positive regard towards something, someone, or even oneself. It is not competitive in nature; feeling proud of my children doesn’t mean I think any less of anyone else’s children. Feeling proud of my country (in spite of its flaws) doesn’t mean I look down on those from other countries. And feeling proud of my accomplishments doesn’t make me want to minimize the accomplishments of others.

In the case of LGBTQ pride specifically, I’ve heard it described as a lack of shame, fear, and self-hatred. It’s an appreciation for our differences, acknowledgement of every person’s unique experiences, and hope and even excitement for what the future brings. Feelings such as these are far from sinful. They’re not even mutually exclusive with humility, which is often considered the opposite of the sin of pride. In fact, in a Christian context, letting go of shame enables us to better recognize the parts of our life God actually wants us to improve upon instead of fixating on those flaws we feel worst about. Letting go of fear enables us to turn to God more quickly and to feel confident in His love rather than shying away from Him and the possibility of punishment. And letting go of self-hatred enables us to practice self-care instead, which in turn enables us to care for others.

On a personal level, I’ve both seen and heard of many specific examples of this transformative power of positive pride, and abundant evidence that that’s nearly always what people mean when they express LGBTQ pride. And if there’s still any doubt about that in the future, the best thing we can do is not make assumptions about others, but rather take the time to talk to them, understand them, and above all, love them the way God loves them.

Thanks for taking the time to read something that I struggled to keep short! Know that wherever you are in your personal journey and your journey towards God, I see you, I love you, and I know that God loves you.

And I’m proud of you. :heart:

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I think it’s pretty much exactly that. There’s no depth to it.

I appreciate you highlighting this! This is important and is a recurring frustration for me (and I’m sure many other LGBT+ people). You touched on it a bit, but I wanted to kind of outline it a little more directly. “Pride” has three meanings.

One, the sin of pride, which is exactly what you described.

Two, the “I’m proud of my daughter” pride.

Three, LGBT+ pride, which isn’t really either. I’m not proud to be gay in the second sense (and certainly not in the first sense), and nobody should be, either. This is the world saying “you should be ashamed” and the LGBT+ person saying “no.”

Needless to say, I don’t believe the second or third are sins. I think most Christians, if being perfectly honest, would agree with me. Some believe being gay is a sin, but in that case, that’s the sin in their worldview. Not the pride aspect.

I think one could easily make the case that pride in identity and pride in faith are the same kind of pride. The world just as quickly would rather we shut away our faith, much in the same way they want us to shut away our identities. I think, even, once your faith grows strong enough, it does become part of your core identity.

I do believe that gay, lesbian, and transgender sexual activities are sin and I believe I have a biblical reason for thinking so, but that’s not the point of this topic. However, just because I don’t struggle with those particular temptations doesn’t mean I’m entitled to the pride of feeling self-righteous. Nastiness towards others often seems to come from that instead of a genuine desire for others to seek holiness. Galatians 6 seems applicable to those who actually want to steer people away from a sin. Be gentle, watch for temptation yourself, bear burdens, and if I think I’m something when I’m nothing, I’m lying to myself.

Self-confidence “pride” is a good thing unless it becomes conceit. Likewise, we should be happy “proud” in other people’s wellbeing, personhood, and accomplishments in love as way of treating others as we would like to be treated.

Personally, whenever I feel conceited about something I made or achieved, it’s probably a current idol in my mind. Then, praise to God, who gave the good thing helps me direct my attention away from it and towards Him.