The Danger of Arrogance

Yesterday, for the first time, it struck me that ‘arrogance’  must come from the Latin arrogare, to claim for oneself. I was reading something which made me think the writer unscholarly and rather arrogant when I found myself questioning what I meant by the latter. In my experience, arrogant people tend to twist and turn facts to suit their own purpose; they are supremely self-confident; and they do not really listen to others because such engagement would show up flaws in their own arguments. What they say and do is all about drawing attention to themselves — see how brilliant/beautiful/superior I am! It is indeed making a claim for oneself, and put like that, it looks rather childish, doesn’t it?

There is a danger in arrogance, however, as there is in most forms of childishness. One hesitates to name any individual as arrogant, but one can see the effects of arrogance all around. Many of our political and economic woes can be traced back to arrogance: to an exaggerated sense of self which disregards any check or balance. It is arrogance which makes it fashionable to decry needy people for being needy — why should I be compassionate when to do so I must step beyond myself and feel the pain of another? It is arrogance which makes it easier to fire bullets at one another rather than sit down and discuss, for why should I listen to you when I know I’m right and you are wrong?

Religious arrogance is just as deadly but often takes a slightly different form. It tends to hide behind the group or organization rather than being outrageously individual, but it retains all the characteristics of personal arrogance. Maybe that is why Benedict is so insistent on monks cultivating humility. The best antidote to arrogance is truthfulness, just as love and compassion are an antidote to hatred and violence. To be truthful, loving and compassionate is to be genuinely grown up, mature in Christ as the apostle says. It is to be selfless in the best sense. To make no claim for oneself, but to allow others to make claims on one, now that really is worth thinking about!

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5 thoughts on “The Danger of Arrogance”

  1. Very much agree here. You see it a lot in organisations such as the Church. Certain individuals can get over compensated by their own importance within the group, whether it be by ‘official appointment’ or by self proclaimation as they feel empowered by spiritual inclination.
    We see these individuals functioning as if the fabric of the Church dependended on them. I know you are already visualising them in your minds eye, investing their psychic energies in preserving their roles, to the detriment of others.
    You know though that if you took their roles away they would collapse, they have little beyond this. They forget that the Church foundation is Christ, and this also should translate to them.
    The organisational structure can also be guilty of this, with homophobia, misogyny, dis enablement, excluding God given talented people to a back seat.
    From my professional life I have had to study the Francis Report, where lives were at stake. It makes very uncomfortable reading, where basically the arrogance of the structure lead to management misconception. As a spiritual body can we hold up a mirror and it not be clouded with Narcicism?

  2. Thank you for inspiring a dip into the dictionary. Breakfast very late today, but what a trawl. Chasing the root ‘rogare’, I came to ‘erogation’. Now there’s a word to live with for a day.
    One online dictionary suggests it is obsolete. Hmm watch this space…

  3. I heard an interesting homily last night on the Rule of Benedict; that it was written to enable the monastic community to get along with each other. It struck me that the same concepts could be useful in a church community also and that we all need God’s grace to let go of our arrogance and develop humility. The first person that should try this is the one I see in the mirror each morning.

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