Self-Sabotage and the Parasite of Pride (Part One) – Finding God in Video Games

In the world of gaming, there may not be a brand more ubiquitous than Fortnite… with an average of over 230 MILLION players a month, this free-to-play juggernaut has maintained a healthy following despite all of the best efforts of their competitors to disrupt their stranglehold on the marketplace. From direct competitors such as Apex Legends and Valorant to major titles like Call of Duty and Halo: Infinite converting to a similar free-to-play model, Fortnite has been fighting furiously for their part of the market share against a growing list of names that are only growing larger and are more determined to take their crown. But in a surprising twist, the parent company of Fortnite has unfortunately been forced to undergo a massive round of layoffs to stabilize their business… not because of the damage being done by their competition, but from self-inflicted wounds.

Epic Games, the developers of Fortnite, made the sad announcement that they are liquidating over 800 employees and their positions… and while news of layoffs is something we are unfortunately growing accustomed to seeing across a multitude of employment sectors, it is the REASON for this staff reduction that is most surprising. Fortnite isn’t struggling to draw users… they are still drawing tremendous player numbers daily and generating billions of dollars in revenue. In the memo openly shared on Epic Games website by CEO Tim Sweeney, the downsizing decision was made due to an INCREASE in participation in creator-generated content… ironically, the more people are engaging in the creator content options that Fortnite has introduced, the LESS money Epic Games is making off of their core products due to the different profit margins for them. Simply put, the revenue-sharing decision that allows users like you and me to create and monetize content within Fortnite is incredibly successful, but that success is coming at the expense of cannibalizing their own more financially lucrative content. What was intended as a supplemental experience to add users and increase participation has actually become an internal parasite of their own making… creator-based content is overtaking the sandbox that Fortnite built and causing Epic Games to become a victim of their own design. Fortnite has done to themselves what Call of Duty, Apex, Overwatch, and Halo COMBINED couldn’t do… and that is a feeling I am unfortunately ALL to familiar with.

In my most honest and desperate moments, I am fiercely aware of my status as a disgustingly unworthy sinner, saved by the Lord’s amazing grace, and hyper-dependent on Him for every aspect of my life. But… there is also a dark part of me that, if left unchecked, will slowly allow any amount of success I experience in life to transform into an adrenaline rush of victory that goes straight to my head. That may come as a bit of a shocking statement to those who know me personally, because I have always been open about my struggles with low self-esteem. It may seem paradoxical for feelings of limited self-worth to co-exist with a challenge with “pride”, but these are not opposing concepts. As a matter of fact, while this isn’t a Scriptural source and I rarely quote from fictional, non-Biblical sources, it was Uncle Iroh from Avatar who said it best when he shared this nugget of wisdom, “Pride is not the opposite of shame, but its’ source. True humility is the only antidote to shame.” And Scripturally, pride and shame typically exist in a direct correlation to each other, and humility is the ONLY cure as we see in Proverbs 11:2, “When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom”.

Let me give you a taste of how this internal monologue finds a way to manifest itself in my mindset… maybe you can relate to it, too. I will pray for the Lord’s guidance and blessing in my life in a particular area, and in His infinite grace He sees fit to answer some of these prayers. And for a little while there is a beautiful balance of appreciation and gratitude as the Father showers me with His undeserved favor. But then the “parasite of pride” starts to worm its’ way into my thoughts… sure, the Lord is blessing my path, but “I” was the one that did all of the practicing, preparing, organizing, and actually performed the work. Yes, He opened the doors for me, but “I” obediently walked through them and did what He said to do. As soon as a work or personal accomplishment is achieved, the sin of pride rears its’ ugly head in an attempt to “share” a portion of the credit for something that was gifted to me from the Father… an enemy within that seeks to invisibly grow inside of me and receive part of the glory that is due to God alone. This “parasite of pride” lies dormant and undetected inside until it experiences the sweet taste of an accolade… and once it gets started, that insatiable thirst for recognition becomes a parasitic vortex that destroys its’ host as it devours all of the free gifts it was showered with and acts as if they were earned. But this battle should not be surprising to me or any of us… because pride is the ORIGINAL sin. Check it out in Ezekiel 28 as the Bible documents the fatal fall of lucifer and details the REASON behind his rebellion against God…

Ezekiel 28:12-17 Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, and say to him, “Thus says the Lord God: you were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: the sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created. You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you. By the abundance of your trading you became filled with violence within, and you sinned; therefore I cast you as a profane thing out of the mountain of God; and I destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the fiery stones. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, that they might gaze at you.

First things first… while this passage is directed at the “king of Tyre” it is clear through both the context as well as the content that this is referring to satan. This being is described as “the anointed cherub”, the “covering cherub”, and was “present in Eden”… and based on the rest of the descriptions provided this was no mere mortal. And when combined with the luciferic passages in Isaiah 14, a clear understanding of how and why sin entered the universe is fully revealed.

Isaiah 14:12-15 “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit.

The sad reality is that lucifer was singled out by the Lord for incredible, undeserved, unearned blessings and a place of prominence, but his response to these gifts mutated into a disgusting display of pride… and while I have never thought to myself that “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God” (I don’t even HAVE a throne), I have to confess that the sin of pride has burrowed into my way of thinking far too many times in my life. I have never thought to myself that I deserve to stand anywhere near the presence of the Lord, but I have ABSOLUTELY allowed myself to enjoy credit for His gifts and blessings that I merely received and displayed. And as the Lord has made it abundantly clear, He will NOT give or share His glory with ANY part of His creation… nor should He.

Isaiah 42:8 I am the Lord, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images.

Here is the challenge that we all must reconcile… just as Epic Games failed to recognize the cannibalization of their core Fortnite business by an internal competitor of their own design, we can easily become sabotaged from within by our OWN success. We can all become the architects of our own demise simply by taking ANY AMOUNT of the credit or glory for the good things in our lives that only exist by the grace of God (John 3:27, Romans 5:2). False humility or low self-esteem are poor and unhealthy replacements for the only true solution to this pride predicament… the answer is not to think less of ourselves as hand-crafted creations of our loving Father (Psalm 139:13-16), but to fully and authentically give the glory and praise to the Lord as the giver of all good things in EVERY thing we receive (James 1:17), from our smallest achievements to our largest accolades (Romans 11:36, Ephesians 3:20-21).

The truth about each of us is that there is nothing inherently good within us (Romans 7:18) and any gifts we possess or outcomes we are able to generate are owed to the unearned blessings and unmerited favor we have received from the Lord. But if we fail to recognize and address the parasite of pride that seeks to take ANY portion of the credit for the victories we experience in life that is rightfully due to the Lord, it will erode us from the inside and place us in direct opposition with the very God who created us. But pride doesn’t always look the way we expect… pride doesn’t necessarily reveal itself with giant pictures of ourselves hung on the walls, certificates of achievement and trophies adorning every inch of our living spaces, or boisterous words bragging about how amazing we are as we share unsolicited details about the most recent marathon that we ran. Sometimes it shows up in people with limited self-esteem like me when we simply allow the thought to exist unchallenged that we accomplished something, ANYTHING on our own (Zechariah 4:6). As I have found FAR too many times, the moment I start placing my confidence in myself or the gifts that were given to me by the Lord, I am mere footsteps away from a fall of my own prideful doing (Proverbs 16:18). The very beginning of a thought that begins with the words “I did” places me in a dangerously similar position to that of lucifer, who allowed his own unchecked internal monologue about the gifts he received graduate from pride to the fatal sin of blasphemy.

As Fortnite found out the hard way, it is the enemy within that is the most dangerous… the unrecognized parasite hidden inside of their apparent triumphs. For many of us, the original sin of pride may be the internal disease that threatens to gorge on our success and cannibalize our victories, but true humility is the cure. Not a humility born of false modesty or a negative self-image, but from an appreciative and grateful heart towards the Lord that joyfully gives all the glory and praise to Him for EVERY good thing we experience down here, from the smallest to the largest. Humility is not an affliction we apply to ourselves to weaken the temptation of pride… it is a mindset we intentionally clothe ourselves with to reflect every affirmation or accolade up to the One who gives us both our value and our purpose (Colossians 3:12, 1 Peter 5:5). And if we will consciously choose to take up the “mind of Christ”, make ourselves of “no reputation”, and truly offer ourselves up as a “servant” with the gifts the Lord has given us (Philippians 2:5-8), then He will lift us up… not so we can receive or share in any part of His glory, but so His light shining through us will draw more people to Him.

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