“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” -Proverbs 3:34
Disclaimer: As soon as one chooses to write about the vice of arrogance he risks being called arrogant. Thus I shall begin with this confession: I struggle with pride. I am opinionated. I often have a huge amount of confidence in my beliefs and convictions. And yes, there have been multiple occasions when I have proclaimed a truth more out of pride than out of a sense of love for my fellow man. For these sins (and many more) I must repent. Therefore, this article is written as much to myself as it it to others. If it convicts you, it convicted me first.
There is an epidemic sweeping our nation, and it’s one that I fear will cause us to spiral even more quickly down the drain of disunity. The reason this pestilence is so perilous is that it makes civil discourse on any topic nearly impossible. It has several symptoms that must be noted:
- Critical thinking becomes highly impaired
- Tempers flare at an alarming rate
- Relationships become strained, and sometimes even break under the pressure
- Being right becomes more important than being good or being loving
- It becomes nearly impossible to apologize for being foolish
- It tempts us to view our fellow man as less than deserving of dignity
So what is this disease that runs rampant amongst us, especially on social media and news feeds?
The thought that you cannot be wrong and that your version of the truth is the only one that merits consideration. In fact, in extreme cases, you may even think that your version of truth is beyond scrutiny, meaning that anyone who dares to question your highly important opinion is obviously an imbecile who must be put in his place lest he face the wrath of your snark.
Let’s take some of the big topics in recent news: racism, police brutality, the confederate flag, gay marriage, Bruce Jenner, deflategate, etc. Look at any comment thread and you will find arrogance in various forms run amok.
- Generational Arrogance – “Obviously our generation is more enlightened than previous generations.”
- Moral Arrogance – “My sense of morals is clearly superior than your sense of morals.”
- Cultural Arrogance – “My cultural heritage gives me better insight to this topic than anyone else.”
- Intellectual Arrogance – “Anyone with an education would clearly agree with me, and since you do not agree you must be on the same intellectual level as a dung beetle.”
- Philosophical Arrogance – “Those who share the same religion/worldview as I do clearly have an understanding of this topic that supersedes that of the ignorant masses.”
With all this arrogance and pride, any dissenting or critical viewpoint is quickly shouted down, shunned and kicked to the curb as ignorant, hateful and uninformed. The problem this creates is a society that is producing worldviews that are untested by reality and have never stood up to serious criticism before we swallow them hook, line, and sinker. Look at our major news networks. Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and talk radio abound with hosts who are brash, outspoken, and prideful. Some admit the bravado is to get ratings, which means we are tuning in to see rude arrogance on display. Not only that, but we are becoming a culture of rude jerks that value a good insult over good insight.
So how do we overcome this and, perhaps more importantly, how do we keep from succumbing to the allure of pride? I believe if we can acknowledge some key truths we can go a long ways towards practicing humility in all of our discussions on the human situation.
- Key Truth #1: You are not the source of all knowledge. Read that again. Human experience did not begin with you, nor will it end with you. Man has been discovering knowledge for thousands of years and, if the Lord tarries, will continue to do so for thousands of years after your death.
- Key Truth #2: No one is right 100% of the time (except Jesus), which means you very well could be wrong. The willingness to admit a mistake or admit that there may be a flaw in your worldview can go a long way in opening the door to real and honest communication.
- Key Truth #3: Just because you are right does not give you permission to be a jerk. Take note of the Apostle Paul’s words in Colossians 4:6 – “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Be gracious in your speech. Use tact. Recognize that sometimes silence accomplishes more than a poorly timed discourse on ethics.
- Key Truth #4: Be compassionate. Even if you disagree with someone, try to put yourself in their shoes. Empathize with them. Try to understand how their past experiences and environment shaped their opinions and worldview. It’s hard to be haughty when your heart is breaking for the person to whom you are speaking.
- Key Truth #5: You are not as smart as you think you are. The more I learn and study the more I discover that I don’t know. If I get one answer to a question, ten more questions pop up to take its place. There is always opportunity to learn, and some of the people we may learn the most from are people we are at odds with philosophically, politically or otherwise.
- Key Truth #6: Admitting ignorance is not the end of the world. No one is an expert in everything. In fact, very few are an “expert” in anything! Learn to say the phrase, “I don’t know” (see Key Truth #1). In addition to keeping you from sounding like a pretentious snob, it makes you more real and relatable, because we all have areas where our knowledge is incomplete and even non-existent.
The next time you venture into social media or wander into the minefield that is a comment thread, keep these six truths in mind. It may preserve a friendship, or even begin one!