In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg tells a fascinating story about the launch of Febreze. The researchers and product development team at Procter & Gamble really believed they had developed a product that consumers longed for—a product that would eliminate, not merely mask, bad smells. During the product development phase, people expressed a deep gratitude for Febreze. But when the product was sold in select markets, few people bought it. Researchers were sent back to the field, and they discovered that people were not buying because they did not know they needed it. They did not smell the stench in their own lives.
The team visited the home of a woman who had nine cats living with her. The researchers could smell the cats even before the front door was opened, and they were welcomed inside. Once inside, the stench was so overwhelming that one of the researchers gagged. When the woman was asked about the cat smell, she replied, “It’s usually not a problem. I notice a smell about once a month.”
Because people cannot often smell their stench, Proctor & Gamble re-launched and repositioned Febreze as the way to finalize and complete a cleaning process.
We are plagued with the same problem. We often do not smell the stench of our pride. While we quickly spot the stench on someone else, we are often oblivious to the pride in our own lives, noticing it “maybe once a month or so.” In the classic Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis called pride the Great Sin. He said:
“There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else…There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.”
Some call pride the chief of all sins because pride ultimately leads to every other sin. The Scripture teaches that God keeps His distance from the proud (Psalm 138:6) and opposes the proud (James 4:6). Clearly our pride sets us in opposition to God and others. Pride is what made the Devil the Devil. In his pride, he wanted to be like God and was cast out of heaven.
Because we often cannot smell our own pride, we would be wise to pray, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:23-24).
God, in His grace, confronts us with our pride. He offers us Himself, and we are humbled with His perfect love and holiness. In His mercy and compassion, He leads us to repentance. And He removes all our sins, including our pride, from us—as far as the east is from the west.