At the end of the list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, Paul says, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (vs. 26).
Apparently, we need to be warned against these things, so let’s consider first what it means to be conceited, and how women may fall into this temptation. Even sweet Christian women. I doubt many of us think that we are conceited. But if we think about it more carefully, we might see how we give way to conceit more than we realize.
What is conceit? Basically, conceit is thinking too highly of ourselves. When we are full of ourselves, when we are self-absorbed, when we are focusing too much on our own needs, our own achievements or gifts, we are being conceited. This is antithetical to walking in the Spirit. It is fleshly. Natural. Not Spiritual. When we are walking in the Spirit, we are thinking of others, we are humble. But when we are conceited, we think we are hot stuff.
As a side note, there is such a thing as negative conceit. That is when we are still thinking about ourselves, but instead of thinking too highly of ourselves, we devote our time to thinking about what big losers we are. This is still being self-absorbed, and it is not walking in the Spirit. To be self-forgetful is to be in Heaven! It is hard not to be self-centered, self-absorbed, self-focused. Our flesh enjoys it. But if we are walking in the Spirit, we will have the power to deny ourselves and think of others.
In marriage, wives can become conceited, thinking they know best about pretty much everything. This conceit manifests itself when a wife becomes bossy and domineering, when she doesn’t listen and refuses to be persuaded. Conceit nags and complains about how much her husband is not meeting her needs, because her own needs are the only ones she sees. This kind of conceit, if not checked, can turn a woman into a tyrant.
Women can become conceited in their friendships when they boast about their blessings, whether it is about how many kids they have, how in shape they are, how many people they have to dinner, how smart their children are, how much their husbands make, or even how evangelistic they are. This stems from an underlying competition that wants to elbow its way to the front of the line. Our flesh likes to compete, to be better than someone else, to get the best seat. It’s a sure way of having no friends.
Mothers can be conceited toward their own children. What do you know anyway? I’m the mom around here. The most important thing is what I want, not what you want. Conceit fires off commands, criticizes, and provokes.
You get the idea. Conceit is anti-walking in the Spirit. It is not a spiritual fruit, but a bad work. Conceit is anti-community; it disrupts the fellowship we should be enjoying with one another and stumbles our loved ones.
The good news is that God can deliver us from our petty conceit. He gives us His Spirit and enables us to walk in the Spirit. So let’s be done with the conceit and replace it with kindness and gentleness, meekness and humility. Our husbands, our friends, our children will be the better for it.