Its 4:30 on a Saturday morning and I have been awake for an hour. I tossed in bed for an hour until I finally decided to get up, fix a cup of Café Verona, put some jazz on and try to untangle the Gordian knot of thoughts in my head. Years ago I read that Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators said, “Thoughts disentangle themselves when they flow over the lips and through the fingertips.”
That is why I write.
I am trying to wrestle with the concept of arrogance. What an ugly word, arrogance. I have turned this word around and tried to look at it from all angles this week. What is it? How can you detect it? Can you have it and not know it? How do you get rid of it? How do you work with someone who has it? How do you live with someone who has it?
I read the dictionary definition:
The act or habit of arrogating, or making undue claims in an overbearing manner; that species of pride which consists in exorbitant claims of rank, dignity, estimation, or power, or which exalts the worth or importance of the person to an undue degree; proud contempt of others; lordliness; haughtiness; self-assumption; presumption. Closely related to the act of arrogating.
I am not sure what the act of arrogating even means, but the rest of that descriptor sounds familiar. I have seen it in so many people. And, now that we are in the zenith of the election season, it is blaring at us with every sound bite from the news and political ad. My aversion to this particular pathology is hyper sensitive these days.
I have had professors who were arrogant. I have had bosses who were arrogant. I have had friends who are arrogant. I have family who are arrogant. I see it in the church, my denomination and pop culture.
One time I went to a reunion for my wife’s college class and a classmate of hers and friend of mine had had some success in the music industry after college and when he came to the gathering he wore sunglasses inside the room. One of Lynette’s good friends punched him in the shoulder and said, “Take those shades off. We all knew you when you weren’t famous.” He mumbled something about an eye condition, but took the glasses off.
The Big Fisherman said,
“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5b)
God resists the proud. I don’t need that. I need God flowing through me and to me. I need His grace like a thirsty man needs water. One of the things I have learned about long distance running is that you have to hydrate long before you feel thirsty in order to stay healthy. I think there is something about running your life with pride that makes you unaware of how depleted your grace-reserves are becoming.
I was discussing arrogance and spiritual pride with a friend this last week at a denominational meeting when he asked me how the afternoon session went and I thought it was as horrible as listening to Kenny G for an hour. But I said, “I could have taught it as good, if not better.”
We both just locked eyes like one of us released some bodily function but didn’t want to acknowledge it—hoping no one noticed.
I am the smartest man in the room. I am the best speaker. I have the best strategy. I have the only opinion worth hearing. I have the only presence worth acknowledging. Look at me and notice I am here. I am a big deal.
And it stinks.
I have been praying for a couple of weeks for the Lord to reveal to me ways to detect spiritual pride in potential candidates to serve with me at my church and He held up a mirror and said, “Just look for someone like you and choose the opposite.”
Bookended around the verses of God-resistance and grace-giving are two words that might help me. They are “submission” and “casting.”
“…all of you be submissive to one another…”
“Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”
I care about my soul. I want it to be supple and malleable like wet clay in the Master’s hand. I need the moisture of grace, so I give my heart, mind and soul to Jesus and relinquish my need to outshine others to Him. Submit—cast, it’s the same thing—relinquishment. I give my soul to the most humble person in the universe. It’s in the relinquishing that grace flows.
It’s like when the Lord came to the anxious person and said, “Why don’t you give me your cares and get some sleep tonight, no sense in both of us staying up.”
Now, I’m sleepy.