I have known some people whom I consider to be arrogant. It isn’t a description I use often for a couple of reasons. First, I seem to spend a lot of my time working with and relating to people who are struggling with such low self-esteem that arrogance simply isn’t going to happen, although strangely enough, many of them worry about becoming arrogant. And secondly, I don’t use it much because when I am accused of being arrogant, it hurts and so I hesitate to describe someone with that word.
But I have known a few people whom I would consider arrogant. Just to be safe, I looked up a definition of the word using the Oxford online dictionary. It tells me the word is a adjective that describes someone who has or shows “an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities.” So, it seems to me, it takes two things to be arrogant: not being as good or as important as you think and refusing to see the reality of who or what you are.
I see this in practise now and then with people who seem to go out of their way to cause hurt and pain and difficulty and justify it be saying something like, “That’s just who I am–you can like it or lump it”. But often, who they think they are and who they really are isn’t the same thing.
The gap between their claims and their reality is obvious, at least to me and often to others but the individual just doesn’t seem to see it or acknowledge it–and maybe even doesn’t care if the gap exists. They are who they are and that is the way it is.
Well, it is true we are who we are–but being who we are isn’t a static and unchanging reality. Human life is a process of change that begins at conception and for believers anyway doesn’t end until we are transformed by the power of God so that we can be part of the new heaven and new earth. Our lives are built on the reality of change–we expect it and count on it and structure life around the changes.
We don’t expect much from a new-born. They have to be cute, healthy, and smile at their grandparents before they smile at anyone else. A teen who is cute, healthy and smiles only at the grandparents causes serious concern–they haven’t changed as they should. Toddlers are expected to get really upset and even have tantrums as they discover parents won’t let them play with power saws. Twenty-somethings who have temper tantrums have some obvious and dangerous issues–they haven’t changed as they should.
Since we are always changing, we really can’t use “We are who we are” as a justification for our behaviour or whatever. This really is the path to arrogance–assuming that we are perfect the way we are.
But here is where it gets interesting, at least to me. The arrogant refuse to listen to themselves and those around them and that allows them to develop an irritatingly inflated view of who they are. Those who struggle with low self-esteem listen too much to those around them and develop a more socially acceptable but equally damaging deflated view of themselves. It appears that when it comes to being who we are, we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.
We can’t ignore how people see us but we can’t take it for Gospel truth–either way causes us trouble. And then, even more confusing is the reality that we really can’t find a spot and stick with it because we are always changing–physically, as we know; emotionally, which we may or may not recognize and spiritually, which we probably recognize even less than the emotional. There is no steady state in life and so we really can’t use, “That’s the way I am” as a justification.
Some of the changes we are in charge of: my weight is the result of choices that I make. Some of the changes, we aren’t in charge of: my age advances no matter what I do. And some of the changes we could control but choose not to: my reactions to people around me sometimes need to be better but I am not always interested in making the necessary changes.
So, we are changing, whether we like it or not–but maybe we can and should be more conscious of and in control of the direction of our changes, which we will look at in the next post.
May the peace of God be with you.