Thoughts undertaken for God's sake...are continued as if they are an end in themselves, and then as if our pleasure in thinking were the end, and finally as if our price or celebrity were the end." C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain.
How true this is! Given our depravity, virtually every noble action will, in the end, be corrupted. For example, reading my Bible daily is a good practice. As C.S. Lewis notes, however, if I am not careful, my daily Bible reading will become an end in and of itself. In other words, I will read my Bible for its own sake, rather than to hear from God. I will begin to find pleasure, not in hearing from God, but in studying the Bible. Then as my knowledge increases, it will become a source of pride. The distinction is subtle, but important. The activity of reading one's Bible is indeed a noble activity. Yet, it is so easy for the noble activity to become corrupted because we have such a tendency towards aggrandizement.
The activity need not be reading your Bible every day. Virtually every good deed can be corrupted by this tendency. Perhaps it is visiting the old or sick. Am I visiting them because I want to show love towards them? Or am I visiting them because of how it makes me feel? Am I giving that gift because I truly want to help the child in Haiti? Or am I giving that gift because it absolves some guilt? Do I pray in public because I have to, or do I do it so others will hear my beautiful prayer?
Pride is the first and deadliest sin. Indeed, in some form, all sin is pride. It is wanting what I want and not what God wants. It is putting myself on the throne of my life, instead of God.
Pride is valuing self more than we should. We are all valuable, but I am not more valuable than you and you are not more valuable than me. Any value that we have is because of Christ and His workings in our life.
There is no easy pill to rid oneself of pride. It requires constant vigilance because of its tendency to raise its ugly head. It will even raise its head in so-called "noble acts."