From time to time I find myself on a crusade. My crusades are not always the result of thorough research and well-thought-out planning, but rather, more often than I care to admit, are quite accidental in nature.
I stumble onto a truth and then begin to view many areas of life through my new-found lens. Of course, in my exuberance I often assume no one else has ever seen the world quite the same way, making the zeal of my crusades borderline obnoxious.
My most recent discovery led me to proclaim to a group of friends that I've come to believe that arrogance is the biggest problem in the world. Humility may someday force me to moderate my claim, but once I began filtering things through that lens, I became convinced that if arrogance isn't "the biggest problem," it is certainly in the running.
Arrogance: having an exaggerated view of one's own importance or abilities.
The most frequently used synonyms serve to magnify the problem. Haughty, proud, conceited, possessing an attitude of superiority and hubris are just a few that come to mind.
Arrogance leads to the conclusion that rules are for other people, even rules I agree with. Others need the rules because they aren't smart enough to make wise decisions without them. My arrogance, however, leads me to conclude that I am above the rules because I know better.
Arrogance naturally leads to the conclusion that others do not have much to offer me in the way of insight or advice. If something was important, surely
I would have thought of it. Most definitely, this applies to those who are below me on whatever totem pole is applicable, be it in my work, my sport or my earnings.
Arrogance quickly attaches blame for any mishap in my life to others. Those "others" certainly include people from other ethnic origins, socio-economic status groups, unions or management. Those most at risk of being the object of my blame, however, are those closest to me. My parents, spouse, children, co-workers or teammates are surely the cause of misbehaviour or underachievement on my part.
Arrogance is also at the root of most "us versus them" attitudes. The obvious example of that outlook in my walk of life is Christians who are against anyone who believes differently than they do, even other Christians. It has hit me forcefully that while I believe the absolutes of the Christian faith right to my core, I have had to consider that I may not have a monopoly on all truth and that others might actually be right about some things.
By definition that means I might actually be wrong occasionally. Ouch!
While on this crusade against arrogance, I have taken a look into what the Bible says about it. Imagine my shock when facing the primary calling of Christians to love (to love God with my whole heart and my neighbour as myself) I came to the great chapter on love, 1 Corinthians 13 and read, "Love is not arrogant." Arrogance is one of the surest enemies to becoming a loving person.
And, while on the topic of core Christianity, wasn't it Jesus Himself Who, while holding a child on His lap said (my paraphrase), "Unless one becomes like a little child, he or she will have a hard time with the Kingdom of God?" That's quite a contrary view to puffing oneself up.
The wisdom writings of Proverbs are packed with thoughts on the subject. "Pride brings a person low but the lowly in spirit gain honour." "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."
Most of us have been raised to believe in the importance of self-confidence. My crusade is not against that teaching. However, the more I think about it, the more I've come to realize the line between confidence and arrogance is very thin, and it's a line
I rarely want to cross.
- Tim Schroeder is a pastor at Trinity Baptist Church; National Pastor with The Leadership Centre/Willow Creek Canada and Chaplain to the Kelowna Rockets.