Note: This article was originally published on the Honestly Thinking blog.
I am the most arrogant person in the world.
Really, it’s true. Don’t believe me? Then clearly you aren’t nearly as intelligent or wise as me to be able to figure it out.
And being the #1 most arrogant person in the world, I figure that makes me the world’s topmost leading expert on the subject.
The truth is God has really been kicking my butt over the last few years (especially this last year), progressively revealing my level of arrogance. Like peeling layers of an onion (each producing a few more tears), I’ve come to discover areas of egotism I never knew existed before.
We are all familiar with the braggadocios, narcissistic personality types – the ones who very openly make every conversation and outward action about themselves. But what we are not as acquainted with is the much more subtler symptoms of pride – the ones that often go undetected but are ultimately just as destructive to you and those around you.
In discovering these signs, I’ve learned that they are detectable when you analyze your motivations and ask yourself if they are centered around one or more of the following: self-importance, self-preservation, or self-empowerment. Each one, of course, makes it all about you. And as I’ve come to find out, I’ve made life a lot more about me than I previously realized.
The thing is, while you will never surpass me in arrogance (not even close), it’s possible that as you analyze the three motivators in relation to your life, you might discover you too have arrogance and didn’t realize it.
Thus, I present to you at least 9 Signs You Might be Arrogant and Not Know It:
#1: You are a perfectionist.
Your value and self-importance are entirely centered around maintaining perfection in every aspect of your life. For others to see you fail would be an embarrassment to who you are. It is a chaotic world we live in, so you find yourself frequently going into self-preservation mode rather than risk allowing anything that might threaten your perfectly controlled little world.
#2: Others are afraid to be themselves around you.
A side-effect of your perfectionism is the devastating wake it leaves on those close to you. You see any imperfections in them as potentially introducing chaos into your controlled world, so you judge them. Even if you never outwardly express those judgments, they sense it. Besides, they witness the perfections you demand of yourself, so they assume you demand the same of them. The result is those around you are intimated by you and never feel safe to reveal their failures or be themselves.
#3: You are a people-pleaser.
People-pleasing feels like a selfless act. After all, what can be more servant-like than to bring joy to others? But the truth is it gives you a sense of empowerment to make others feel happy. In addition, people-pleasing is frequently self-preservational as it becomes a way of maintaining the peace. A good sign these are your motivators is you become depressed or anxious when others aren’t happy – meaning it was really more about you than them. The only way to truly be a loving servant is to be willing to speak and act out in truth regardless of the other person’s response.
#4: You are shy.
Another tricky one because shyness is actually pride disguised as humility. Different than “introversion” in which a person finds social interactions simply exhausting, shyness is when you avoid interacting with people with the subconscious attempt of rejecting them before they could possibly reject you – thus, self-preservation and self-importance. The result of this selfish act is that you fail to share with others the gift of the real you.
#5: You worry and complain.
Similar to perfectionism, the chaos of this world frightens you. Unable to bring it under physical control, you seek empowerment by making yourself a “god” of this world through your mind. You thus judge the world and create your own universe of endless scenarios, both good and bad, rather than find peace through dependency and trust in the real God who is in control.
#6: You continually struggle with negative behavior, bad habits or addictions.
As the proverb states, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Thus, if you do a lot of falling, it’s worth examining if there’s a lot of pride to go with it. What proceeded your negative behavior? Were you feeling self-important? Were things out of control and, thus, you empowered yourself with worry? Were you afraid people might see the real, imperfect and needy you – so you failed to open yourself up or rely on other’s help?
#7: You struggle with feelings of shame.
Shame is another form of pride disguised as humility. Stemming from the consequences of negative behavior, it is the counterpart to perfectionism from which you derive your value. Recognizing your nakedness and imperfection, you try to beat yourself into submission and you hide from God and others. The problem is this only starts a continuous cycle of shame, hiding and trying to cover yourself with further negative behaviors. The only way to find freedom from the cycle is to open yourself up to God and others, allowing them to see and accept you for who you really are – imperfections and all.
#8: You ‘splain things to people.
Whether it’s gender ‘splaining, generational ‘splaining, political ‘splaining, race ‘splaining, faith ‘splaining or any other kind of ‘splaining, your goal is to try to “educate” the less informed regarding the greater wisdom self-important you has clearly arrived at. While it is vital we share our knowledge and ideas, there is a fine line between opening up gracious, listening and learning dialogue verses pridefully demonstrating how your factual reasoning is superior to others’ erroneous ways.
‘Splaining doesn’t just happen with divisive issues. When someone faces confusing, difficult or even tragic circumstances, you are quick to pull out the latest research, famous quote or Bible verse. Uncomfortable with unanswered questions, you feel self-empowered as you provide your ready-made response – forgetting there are real people hurting at the other end of those responses and failing to recognize there are simply things for which there are no good answers.
#9: You’ve been “falsely” accused of being arrogant.
While I’m a firm believer we get our identity from God and not the opinions of others, I also strongly believe that when someone criticizes you, no matter how baseless the claims, you should always examine to see if there might be a bit of truth … even if only 1%. Thus, if someone ever calls you “arrogant,” it’s worth examining if there is an ounce of truth. I had some unfounded, and even cruel and inappropriate, accusations against me in the last few years, but when I examined them for the 1%, I discovered, lo and behold, I not only had arrogance, I was the most arrogant person in the world.
* * *
I don’t know about you, but I have been guilty of all the above. And as I continually examine through the lens of self-importance, self-preservation and self-empowerment, layers upon layers continue to surface. Quite honestly, it has felt devastating.
How could I have a heart so utterly self-centered? How could my interactions with the ones I love be so much more about me than them?
And are my writings more exercises of the ego than attempts at authentic dialogue? Are the words I write to you even now an effort at self-importance?
But am I alone in this? According to Christ himself I am not allowed to judge. I must first scrutinize this colossal log in my own eye before I attempt to remove the tiny spec in others.
But if I’m being honest, as I peer out around the corners of this massive plank, as an expert on arrogance I see glimpses of it oozing out from every seam of society.
I see it in every other social media post. I see it in all the political dialogue as we label people and share words that generalize and mock whole groups for their differing ideas.
I see it in shares that seem focused more on generating reactions and “likes” than in expressing genuine servanthood love for others.
I see it in how we self-preserve by hiding behind our screens rather than risk face to face social interaction.
I see it in the ways we are afraid to ask for help or openly admit we are struggling.
I see it in how many people remain bound by shame and try to cover it by either shaming others or numbing it through self-destructive behaviors and addictions.
So immersed in arrogance are we … am I … that I sometimes wonder if there’s any hope. Do any of us even know what humility looks like?
But amidst the devastating blows … behind the tears as layer upon layer are peeled away revealing my selfish arrogance … I am occasionally reminded.
I am reminded of what true humility looks like … by the very one who has every right to lord greatness over us.
Humility looks like the one who some 13 ½ billion years ago spoke and a universe of billions of galaxies was created, yet some 2000 years ago allowed itself to be born an “illegitimate” child of a teenage girl amidst an oppressed people on a tiny planet.
Humility looks like the person that had done no wrong and had every right to stone a woman who had arrogantly cheated on her betrothed, yet he chose to say instead, “I do not condemn.”
Humility looks like the one who could have chosen to be like the Pagan gods of the surrounding culture who created humankind to be their slaves, yet he chose instead to kneel half-naked before people he called “friends” and proceeded like a servant to wash their dirty feet.
Humility looks like a starving man 40 days in the wilderness who could have called upon his own identity in order to preserve and empower himself and to demand his place of importance yet denied all three possibilities in order to submit himself to a selfless purpose.
Humility looks to the person who could have easily made himself a king, yet chose to elevate women, children, the poor and the outcasts.
Humility looks like the one who could have called upon thousands of angels to protect him, yet willingly submitted himself to death on a cross in order to remove shame from the very ones who were hurting him.
Humility looks like the one whose name brings powerful chills every time I speak of it. Humility looks like Jesus.
Could I ever hope to be anything like that?
After all, since all things were created through him, it seems to me we should have a universe created for humility.
Or do I just continually repeat the cycle of Adam and Eve? Tempted by the chaos, instead of becoming an image bearer of a selfless, loving God, I enthrone myself to become my own little selfish “god” in control of my environment? Embarrassed by my nakedness and imperfections, I hide in shame, ineffectively trying to cover myself with “fig leaf” habits while pointing in others’ direction.
Humility seems so far removed from me.
But that’s the thing. Perhaps I was never meant to be perfect. Perhaps grace was always part of the deal. After all, scripture tells us that “grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.”
“Who told you that you were naked?” asked God as Adam and Eve cowered in unnecessary shame.
Perhaps we were never perfect but were always perfectly loved.
And regardless of my arrogance, of my selfishness, of my imperfections … I can rest in that.
That humbles me. Knowing that I am perfectly loved without fault, I can then seek to be more like him irrespective of stumbles along the way.
I am the most loved and forgiven person in the world.
Don’t believe me?
Then it is simply my hope that someday you might discover this same kind of love and forgiveness for yourself.
We'd love to hear your thoughts about this article. Please take a minute to share them in the comment section by clicking here. Or carry the conversation over on your favorite social network by clicking one of the share buttons below.
Join the conversation!
We have no tolerance for comments containing violence, racism, profanity, vulgarity, doxing, or discourteous behavior. Thank you for partnering with us to maintain fruitful conversation.