There are days when I begin to wonder if there is something wrong with me. Of course, there are other days when I know for sure that there is something wrong with me but that is a topic for another time. The days when I am wondering generally come when I am having significant contact with people who are struggling with their view of themselves. This can be during a counselling session, sometimes during a teaching session or even while having coffee with someone while talking about nothing major.
The wondering comes when I realize just how many people I know who spend a lot of their time measuring themselves by the standards of other people. Sometimes, the other people are internalized versions of people who were significant in their childhood. Sometimes, the other people are mentors and teachers of the not so distant past. Occasionally, the other people are a peer group. Much of the time, the requirements that people feel are coming from all these sources get wrapped up with the individual’s view of faith and low self-esteem magically becomes a Christian virtue.
This all gets me wondering because although I do have occasional bouts of low self-esteem, it is not something I struggle with a lot. In fact, I have been called arrogant more times than I want to count. I have to confess being called arrogant does hurt because it isn’t part of the way I normally see myself. But I can see why I get labelled that way.
I don’t generally need to define myself through the eyes of other people. I don’t try to tailor my personality to measure up so I can gain approval from others. If I think or feel something, I am likely to express it honestly, even if it isn’t acceptable to the other person. I can and will make assessments of situations and the people involved that aren’t always filled with warm fuzzies. If asked my opinion, I will give it, even if I know that the person asking may not really want to hear what I have to say.
As you might guess, I haven’t always been the most popular person in the room. Interestingly enough, though, over the years, I have had people and groups seek me out because I am who I am. I remember one person telling me they wanted me on a certain committee because there were some difficult things coming up and I was just the person to say what needed to be said.
There is an old saying, “In the land of the blind, a one eyed man in king”–suggesting that when everyone struggles with a problem, someone who has less of the problem will rise to the top. I once read a story dealing with that theme where the writer showed that the one-eyed man didn’t become king–the blind people in the land eventually made him blind so he could fit in.
And I am beginning to wonder if this isn’t what happens sometimes with me. Maybe I am arrogant. But then again maybe because I end up connecting with so many people who struggle with low self-esteem, I become a threat or danger and people what me to be more like them. I realize that making statements like that can sound arrogant and threatening. But it does seem to me that low self-esteem has become something of a virtue in much of the Christian faith and anyone not having a proper level of self-dislike stands out.
And one of my sons, who has spent many years immersed in Japanese culture, would probably quote a Japanese proverb to me to describe what happens when an individual stands out from the crowd: “The nail that sticks up gets hammered”. Maybe the problem isn’t that I am arrogant but that I stick out among people who struggle to be themselves.
I don’t want to be arrogant. But then neither do I want to go around submerging my personality in the flood waters of expectations and demands and requirements that seem to overwhelm so many. So in the end, I wonder. I have a pretty good idea of my strengths and weaknesses, what I can do and what I can’t do. When I don’t know or can’t do, I tend to be quiet and try to let others take the lead–but when I do know or can do, I don’t sit back and pretend to be what I am not. I don’t think that is arrogance but it seems like a lot of others do.
I would like to close this post be saying, “That’s who I am and that is the way it is”–but there are some problems with that, which I will save for the next post.
May the peace of God be with you.