Our arrogance is most often evidenced through our words, by what we say and how we say it. There are some specific categories that these words are typically identified with. If we can understand the symptom (which is wrong words) then we can be alerted to the fact that we have pride in our heart and catch it before it destroys us.
The first expression of pride in our words is in our boasting. Both pride and boasting are associated with each other in the Bible (Romans 1:30; II Timothy 3:2). They are twins; where one is you will find the other.
This is easily seen in the sports world. One of the best examples is the phrase that is used by fans of winning team – “bragging rights”. Fans of the victor in championship games and heated rivalries often claim this supposed “right” they now claim.. It has degenerated into “trash talk” between fans at work, school, and even at church.
Now, I know, I know, it is supposedly all done in good fun, but that isn’t the reality most of the time. If we are honest we have all seen (and perhaps been drawn into) arguments over games, blown calls, and even been hurt by the constant flaunting of how “our” team is better than “your” team.
Everything has a balance. I have my favorite teams for which I pull and read articles and have hats and jerseys that represent my loyalty. Also, I enjoy talking to people about the nuances of the sport or upcoming games between two different teams that we are wanting to win. That’s both interesting and fun.
I’m not promoting passivity or the idea that everyone gets a trophy no matter how they finished. Not at all. (This is one of the problems in our approach to helping children to maintain self-acceptance; don’t fail anyone, don’t cut anyone from the team, don’t recognize outstanding performance. We have lowered the bar so much that hard work is not attractive to an athlete or worker because it is not honored, recognized or compensated).
However, there is another extreme side to the spectrum that is not healthy. I do not enjoy someone peppering me with verbal jabs when their team won. Sure, we ought to have a thick skin about some things, but there is a deeper question here: is there even a need to have a thick skin for something this silly and, frankly, even wrong.
It comes close to somehow suggesting that the person to which you are lording over with your “bragging rights” is a failure for pulling for their team. Why would you want to make someone feel worse when they already are disappointed? Is there joy in rubbing salt in the wound? I think most of the time it is in response to someone that has been ribbing them excessively. Still, two wrongs don’t make a right.
My brother played at the highest level of college football and even at the professional level. He will tell you and I have personally observed that the players get over games quicker than the fans do. The majority of players have a mutual respect (there are some exceptions) for each other and don’t engage in trash talking their opponents, before or after the game.
At the root of all boasting is pride. We want to be on the winning side and to crow about the fact that we are better than others.
There are a number of ways we boast, but I want to just deal with one that is most common: we boast when we seek credit for accomplishments. When a person is insecure and fearful that they won’t be credited for what has been accomplished, they begin to scheme. This includes ways to let people know that they were responsible or had a large part in bringing the success to pass. The reason we do this is because we want to be honored and receive glory for our input.
A synonym for boasting is “glory”. To glory is to receive credit and be admired for what has been done.
This is the meaning in one of the clearest passages concerning how we go to Heaven – “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast“. (Ephesians 2:8-9) No one can go to Heaven on the basis of what they have done. God knows they would boast or glory in it.
The only way to Heaven is through what Christ has accomplished for us on the cross and we receive it as a gift. The verse above plainly teaches this. Here is a simple thought: no one boasts about being the recipient of a gift. All they do is receive it. It takes humility to receive something. We admire and honor the givers, not the takers.
Consider another Bible verse on the nature of pride – “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world”. (I John 2:16) Sometimes we hear preachers talk about “worldliness”, but they never define it. Here it is defined for us.
The world is a system or philosophy without God and operates from three powerful appeals that attract our fallen nature – the “lust of the flesh….the lust of the eyes…the pride of life”.
Let me quickly explain how this works. The “lust of the flesh” is the desire to do; the “lust of the eye” is the desire to have: and the “pride of life” is the desire to be. My corrupt nature is consumed with what it can do, have and be. These desires are very powerful and subtle.
All of us have deep desires (even unknown to us sometimes) to do more, have more and be more. Here is a simple, but powerful question: why do we want to do, have and be more?
Pride is always competitive and boasting, of necessity, must have something with which to compare what a person has done, possesses, or is in contrast to others.
God warns against this and says it is foolish to live this way – “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise”. (II Corinthians 10:12)
Note the indicators of pride and boasting in the verse above – “…they compare themselves with others….they commend themselves…they measure themselves with others….they compare themselves among themselves”. God plainly states that to do so is “not wise”. Yet, we find ourselves drawn to comparisons, especially that make us look favorable.
When our heart is filled with selfish thoughts we inevitably begin to boast and this is the surface indicator that pride is in one’s heart. The boasting is the fruit; the pride is the root. Seeking personal glory is the symptom; arrogance is the cause.
All of this happens in our heart because we have a corrupt and selfish nature. The Bible says, “…thine heart lifteth thee up to boast…” (II Chronicles 25:19) It is a proud heart that leads a person to boasting.
Before the boasting is the comparing in your heart of what you do, have, and are more than others. Such thinking will inevitably lead to boasting. Again, the boasting is not the cause and is a signal to us that we have a proud heart.
This is what King Nebuchadnezzar (the forerunner to Saddam Hussein in Iraq) did as he gloried in what he thought he alone had accomplished – “…is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30) Notice the boasting of this world leader. Count the personal pronouns he uses – “I…my”.
At this time Babylon had one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the spectacular hanging gardens. Present Iraq is located where Babylon was. It is known that Saddam Hussein asked people to refer to him as “Nebuchadnezzar” (who built the gardens) and even had plans to rebuild them to their former splendor.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. This is so important to remember as parents in our homes. Remember that you do not reproduce what you want, you reproduce what you are. Proud, boasting parents produce children that are arrogant and braggarts.
As I conclude this post I want to revisit the issue of “bragging rights” and our boasting in the teams we support. When your team wins what did you do to earn the victory? Yell loud in the stands or in front of your television? Send the coaches some plays or defensive alignments that were helpful to the cause?
Of course, I am being very silly, but I am trying to make a point. We ought not be interested in “bragging rights” as believers. I think it is possible to pull for a team and be humble and quiet about it. Boasters are obnoxious and pay the price of losing friends because of their pride.
Perhaps it isn’t the sports world about which you boast. Maybe it is in the academic achievements of your children. Some boast about social status or their family heritage.
Many years ago when I was a youth pastor I was counseling a troubled girl in my office about some things she needed to make right with her friends at school. She honestly thought she was better than the other kids and had a superior attitude that made it difficult to like her. (Our friends and family react to us when we are proud).
I suggested that she go and apologize for some things she had said that were hurtful. I will always remember her response. She said with a condescending voice, “Johnsons (not her real last name) don’t apologize”. And she was serious. It is impossible to help a proud person that refuses to humble their heart before the Lord.
About four months after our talk one of the teachers walked into my office with an ashen face and said, “Did you hear? Cindy (not her real name) committed suicide this afternoon”. We went by her home to visit and try to help the family. It was in one of the nicest subdivisions in the entire area. I was not surprised.
This girl had everything – money, parents that provided for her, a beautiful home, her own car. But there was something she had that ultimately took her life – pride. Her boasting was only the indicator of a deeper problem.
As I relived our conversation many, many times I kept coming back to that arrogant comment – “Johnsons don’t apologize”. This is only my opinion, but I believe I am right about it; I think she learned that attitude and perhaps even the exact phrasing from her parents. In a manner of speaking, she believed in “bragging rights” and I think she saw it modeled in her home. And she believed it.
The most damaging thing about our arrogant boasting is that our children pick it up and learn to excuse it, not realizing the unnecessary conflicts and devastating consequences they are going to experience one day. Sometimes even in their teenage years.