I see myself capable of arrogance… That’s a fierce thing, to discover within yourself that which you despise the most in others. ~George Stevens
It’s a fine line that separates confidence from arrogance, a line that is frequently blurred beyond recognition, a short step that moves a person from healthy self-confidence to revolting arrogance, a confidence draws people in while arrogance pushes them away. I dislike interacting with arrogant people. Their condescending attitude makes dealing with them a particularly unpleasant experience. I have battled arrogance, my own arrogance, for most of my adult life. It is only within the last third of my years that I have been able to somewhat check my arrogance and let my self-confidence exude.
Confidence in a person comes from two sources, a genetic component and a grown component, one is our nature, the other is fed by nurture. Growing up, my siblings and I were encouraged by our parents. We were raised with the belief that we could achieve anything if we put our mind to the task and worked hard. Success, accomplishment was not something that happened to us, rather, was the result of effort, of diligence, of toil. Failure in our endeavors was not the result of inability, it was the result of not putting in the blood, sweat, and tears required to succeed. Because our parents believed in us, and let us know they believed in our abilities, we all grew up with a measure of self-confidence. However, we do not each have the same level of self-confidence. Some of us had a greater genetic predisposition to being confident and had that confidence flourish to greater degrees than our siblings under the tutelage of our parents. This explains the varying degrees of confidence in each of us six kids. Despite being raised by the same parents, my self-confidence, unlike that of my siblings, twisted into arrogance.
Often, arrogance and confidence are misconstrued as each other. This confusion in the recipient can be colored by the baggage they carry thru life. If analyzed, the differences in confidence and arrogance are readily apparent. A person with true confidence does not lord their abilities or accomplishments over others whereas the arrogant love to flaunt what they have accomplished. A person with true confidence is not threatened by the success of another whereas the arrogant feels diminished when someone else has an accomplishment. A person with true confidence seeks to instill confidence in others whereas the arrogant seeks to tear down others so they can feel superior. A person with true confidence has an inner peace where a person with arrogance exists in turmoil seeing threats whenever someone else achieves.
The differentiator between a self confident person and an arrogant person is humility. Arrogance is essentially confidence without humility. Humility is the ingredient that keeps us from flaunting our self-confidence. Humility is the ingredient I had in short supply during my late teens and twenties. It is the ingredient that I found again in my early 30s, is the ingredient I have been continually trying to nurture since my early 30s.
I came to humility with great difficulty. The arrogance that was so much a part of my person drove a wedge between me and most everyone else I encountered, caused me to make increasingly bad decisions, gradually destroyed my life until I was but a shell, a cracked shell in desperate need of repair. At this, the lowest point in my life, I first attended Willow Creek an interdenominational Christian Church which was the last place I expected to find myself because in my arrogance I ran away from the church of my youth. It was at Willow that I finally figured out I was not God which, was kind of shocking since I had written an essay a few years earlier titled ‘I Am God’ that was given an ‘A’ in a creative writing class.
Realizing you are not God changes your perspective. It’s not a small change either. It’s a life altering understanding. The meaning of life takes on new meaning when the world is no longer viewed as existing to serve your own needs. The walk through life becomes very different when ones abilities are viewed as a gift with which to serve others for the common good rather than as something that makes you superior to your fellow man. It is humbling when one finally realizes that everything in life is a gift, a gift which can be snuffed out in an instant. It is fall on the knees humbling when one understands that a loving God gave his life so I, so you, could have the gift of eternal life.
With this altered view of life, I now know that my predisposition to confidence and the parents I was given to nurture that confidence were not random acts of nature but gifts of God. It’s hard to be arrogant when one understands that God has given you a gift. In fact, that knowledge is downright humbling. And humbleness, humility is just what I needed to push my arrogance back across the line to self-confidence. Humility was the missing ingredient in my leadership, a leadership perspective that, when infused with a dose of humility, went from someone hungry for power to someone seeking the best for the people I lead, the people I serve.
I wish I could say that I am finally cured of my arrogance, that I am this perfectly humble man who always seeks to serve others out of humility rather than vain ambition. But, saying I was cured would just be another manifestation of arrogance and evidence of an attitude with the capability of sending me over the line in the direction of arrogance once again. That’s a place I definitely want to avoid. I must be forever on guard over my attitude, must continually review my words and actions for hints of arrogant behavior. I don’t see this battle ending any time soon, in fact, I am sure I will forever be battling arrogance.