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Pride and Arrogance | Catholic Life

Pride and Arrogance

Note to those who think that it is not fitting to admit sin on blogs: please do not read, and certainly do not comment on this post.

This is a serious, and not sarcastic post.

Most of my (short) adult life I have been aware of an underlying sin of pride. I cannot describe it as a “struggle” because it is only on very specific occasions that I bother to struggle with it. As with most of the worst evils, it simply does not seem as bad as the lesser sins that attract more attention and demand to be stamped out rightnow.

I have often been confused by those of my acquaintance who are arrogant. And they are many, for while I love humble people, I am constantly attracted to those who are arrogant. I misconstrued their arrogance as the same as my pride, and so often wondered how they could be so careless about appearing stupid in their arrogance.

In the beginning of our relationship I would get upset (and I mean genuinely distressed, not angry) at Josh for being confident when he turned out to be wrong. At first when we disagreed over some factual matter I would be inclined to back down because he was so matter-of-fact about simply being right. Then, when it turned out that I had in fact been correct, I was unable to understand how on earth he could have been so dogmatic without actually being right. Why on earth would he not have at least allowed the possibility that he was mistaken?

It turned out that he was simply rather used to being right and did not find it worth his time to qualify statements that were always true. He was often perfectly willing to modify his view when it was shown that he was, in fact, incorrect. But since he was accustomed to being right it seemed natural to him to always presume that he was right.

The week before Lent Josh asked me about the guidelines for fasting and abstinence. I told him what I thought they were, with the appropriate qualifiers about my memory and went immediately to look the rules up online. When I read the actual rules to Josh he said something indicating that what I was reading was not necessary since it was only confirming what he already knew. I do not remember what I said to express my “what the?” about the fact that two minutes before he had been asking me about something which he now indicated he already knew. Josh clarified that he found the official source unnecessary because I had said that I was pretty sure of the rules and I was “always right” about such things. He already knew because I had just told him.

I was rather amused (though of course I should have been annoyed) that his arrogance had now extended to his view of me! I still think that I should verify anything that I cannot precisely remember from an authoritative source, and Josh now thinks that he does not even need to double-check things on which I am fairly certain!

On reflecting on my pride-arrogance relationship with Josh it is surprising to realize that the most obvious sin was rarely an issue. The same cannot be said for my interactions with arrogant e-friends. Something about the internet makes people stupid. It happens frequently on blogs, but I first realized the extent of the problem on Twitter.

Twitter is a 140 World of Arrogance. It is, of course, partly that like attracts like and I love arrogance, but it is also partly the nature of the sea-beast. Fast and concise tends to boil down to arrogance, or bring it to a boiling point, or some other boiling metaphor which you will already know if you are a part of my Twitter world.

Fairly soon after I started @VitaCatholic I saw pride in my own stream1 and so I began to make a point to undercut it. Whenever I saw a chance to stop the pride-game by admitting my ignorance or fitting in disclaimers I would do so.

And then pride really became a problem. I told Josh my dilemma. In trying to eliminate arrogance I had inadvertently fed my pride. Now others would say very stupid things to me because they assumed that my lack of arrogance reflected ignorance, and then my pride would kick in and I would wonder why anyone would be so stupid.

Josh offered practical tips. Apparently my version of concise non-arrogance was a problem for arrogant literalists. Josh told me to never say that I “knew nothing” about a subject in which I had taken a class or read a few books. To me it is a concise way of saying that I am aware that my view probably needs to be refined significantly and that I may not even be confident enough to do anything other than play devil’s advocate. But Josh thought it an obvious invitation for eager Arrogants to chime in with what I would consider to be less-than-nothing.

Practical tips were helpful, but I was still bewildered by others willingness to set themselves up for stupidity. When others challenge me and I know that I am right, I wonder whether they have access to something I do not. Perhaps they have read secret Vatican archives and I really should reconsider my view. After all, it is not like it would make any sense for them to tell me that I am wrong when I know that I have facts on my side, so there must be something that I am missing. It simply would not make sense for someone to tell me that I am wrong without so much as checking the catechism or canon law, or a few letters by Pater Deserto-Obscurus. If I thought someone was wrong I would first do a bit of fast fact-checking and then phrase my challenge in a way that made it clear that while I doubted their claim I was quite open to having it clarified and supported. After all, I assume that others are equally prideful and do not want to say things that are incorrect.

It was only when I realized the importance of distinguishing pride from arrogance that I began to understand the situation. While others are more arrogant than I, they do not have the deep underlying pride which checks my words and sends me fact-checking. Others will off-handedly say presumptuous things because they are arrogant, but their arrogance is an acceptable personality trait. Being arrogant has its downsides, but it also enables one to share crucial information in a timely manor, to inform and correct others without doing a lot of work.

The problem is pride. Pride eats through what should be my soul and causes me to judge others for their arrogance. Pride prevents me from offering helpful tips about where others might find a fuller view of any given issue because I do not want to take the risks involved. Pride makes me shut up and shut out others.

And the oh so sweet irony is that the frequent remedy seems all too homeopathic. My pride is best defeated by risking arrogance.

1.Wait, there are whales in streams? No wonder they fail so often! Who came up with these symbols?!

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2 Responses to “Pride and Arrogance”

  1. Kathleen 20. Mar, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    Oh, Rae, I’m exhausted keeping up with you! Don’t get me wrong, I sympathize. Pride is a problem I struggle with too. 😉 However, this:

    “When others challenge me and I know that I am right, I wonder whether they have access to something I do not.”

    That is so me. You have captured me utterly.

  2. felicemifa 27. Mar, 2011 at 8:27 am #

    I too am an obsessive fact-checker and it slows me down sometimes. If that’s the price I have to pay for being accurate, I am willing to pay it.

    In other news, I just love your writing, always.

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