The Problem with Arrogance

the problem with arrogance

When I was growing up, there was a very common euphemism that was used when referring to those who behaved arrogantly.  Such people were said to be “full of themselves.”  I don’t know if folks still use this phrase or not.  Today, because the average person generally spends less time beating around the bush, it is highly likely that he or she would be more direct, saying the following instead: “Arrogant people are full of shit.”

Because arrogant people are full of themselves and they are, by definition, shitty people, that makes them full of shit.   I suppose I’ve just proved, using a kind of syllogistic logic, that arrogant people can be both full of themselves and shitty.  Actually, they are shitty because they are very much themselves.

(You can probably tell that I really get off on playing around with language and ideas.)

I wanted to be sure to start this one off by letting you know, in no uncertain terms, what I think of arrogance and those who display it in their behavior.  Today, most Americans—and I am one; at least my passport makes this assertion—are really getting schooled on arrogance because we have a president who is so effusively self-congratulatory that I actually end up either blushing or cringing every single time he speaks about any subject.  Invariably, no matter the topic at hand, he’ll find some way to brag and then pat himself on the back.  I find such behavior juvenile and off-putting in the extreme.

I want to pivot away from Trump and start talking about arrogance in general.  It was good, though, that I began this blog with him because he is a prime example of one of the main ways arrogance negatively affects a person, so I’ll return to the subject of America’s obnoxious president very shortly.

Arrogance is not one of the Seven Deadly Sins but it should be.  When we behave arrogantly we sin against ourselves and others.  We sin against ourselves by believing, quite falsely, that we are the greatest.  Being the greatest means that we are the most capable, the most intelligent, etc., etc., etc.  It means we are superior in every way and therefore there is no one—and I mean NO ONE—who can tell us anything that we don’t already know.  The arrogant see themselves as the founts of all knowledge.  They see themselves as sages.  They are the enlightened and the experts.  Everyone should listen to what they have to say.  They don’t need to open their ears, though, because there is nothing they need to hear or learn.  There is no one who is capable of teaching them anything they don’t already know.

Arrogance is a form of delusion.  Arrogance is the enemy of good thinking.  Arrogance closes the ears and the mind and opens the mouth.  But what comes from the mouth is pure braggadocio.

Arrogance is causing Trump to self-destruct.  All people who behave arrogantly end up destroying themselves.  They push away people and ideas they need to embrace.  They worship themselves and never realize that they are nothing but false idols.  I’d feel sorry for them if I didn’t despise them so much.

I’m curious to hear what you’ve thought of this piece and the arguments I’ve made here.  The floor is yours…

6 thoughts on “The Problem with Arrogance

  1. Nice article! I agree with you that arrogance at its most extreme causes people to self-destruct, and that it is despicable. I also think that arrogance (like many traits) may exist on a spectrum, with the version that you are describing falling on the most extreme end of that spectrum.

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  2. Hi. Thanks for the comment. My main concern is with arrogance getting in the way of critical thinking. I do a lot of critical thinking workshops, have taught critical thinking for many years, and often write about it. One of the main reasons America’s current president is so dangerous is that he is in love with himself and thinks he is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Such behavior makes it impossible to talk or reason with him because he always thinks he has all the answers and doesn’t need to look at anything from a point of view other than his own.

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  3. I think that there is a kernel of truth scattered throughout your post, but it overlooks a few things.
    For example, I am sometimes accused of being arrogant when I am merely confident. I know what I am capable of, so I am confident. I am often intimidating, which I think my profession encourages (I’m an attorney that conducts legal investigations) but I know when to turn it off and be softer and approachable. However, I know that I make mistakes, that others are also competent, and they may have good ideas that are unlike mine. I listen to what those around me are saying, looking for the truth, and looking for ways to fix a situation. So I don’t think that I am arrogant.

    It is easy to point at a public figure and say they are arrogant, especially when there is so much evidence there, but I think that many people apply the term with a very wide brush and don’t always understand that being arrogant is not the same as being an asshole. Arrogance is also less than being narcissistic, but your post seems to treat them the same. Your example is a good case in point. There is a lot going on with him, and it is far more than arrogance. An arrogant person doesn’t listen to anyone else’s ideas, does not admit when they are wrong, and has no room in their life for those who do not agree with them. It is often a person who does (maybe) one thing well but thinks that they do all things well, by extension. Perhaps an example with fewer co-conditions would be more instructive.

    I don’t know that all arrogant people are self-destructive, either. You are so certain of your ideas, or you are presenting them in an inflammatory way in order to incite discussion. I guess that worked, because here I am. I know a few people that are quite successful because they are confident in many areas, and they are viewed as arrogant. I’m not sure that they are, because they are so good at what they do. However, I will agree that arrogant people will destroy all their relationships, as few people can stand to be around them. Funnily enough, there are whole classes presented to attorneys to learn the differences between common types of jerks in the profession (narcissists, borderline personality disorder, etc.) and how to deal with each one because it comes up so much in the profession. Since I am not a litigator, my exposure is less, thank goodness.

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  4. Hi. Thanks for the interesting comment. I think I was mostly concerned with how arrogance affects our ability to think, not with arrogance per se. Since I deal a lot with creative problem solving and critical thinking, a lot of my writing is connected with those topics and skills. I do believe arrogance, by its very natural, closes the mind and makes the arrogant less open to having new experiences or listening to other peoples’ ideas. Yes, narcissism is an extreme form of arrogance. Narcissism is a kind of illness; whereas, arrogance can (but certainly not always) rub people the wrong way but isn’t a sickness. And having confidence and being arrogant are certainly two different things. Again, I’m concerned with how arrogance affects our ability to see the world, process information, and come to the best course of action (given that arrogance cuts off the arrogant from seeing the full range of possibilities available to them). By closing ourselves to others and to alternative ways of seeing and thinking about things, we automatically close ourselves to ideas that could eventually open up new possibilities. The truly arrogant person finds it very hard to get outside whatever person box he or she resides in. I’m not saying it’s impossible for such a person to get outside his or her box but arrogance interferes in that process. A person who sees himself or herself as always right is actually stuck in something akin to an intellectual rut.

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  5. Good write-up. I would just offer one correction: Arrogance actually IS one of the Seven Deadly Sins. It’s Pride. I think Pride encompasses arrogance, hubris, and other varieties. C.S. Lewis identifies pride as the source of all sins in one of this books … I think it’s in Mere Christianity.

    You are absolutely right that one of the worst things about arrogance is that it closes us off from critical information. The book of Proverbs has lots of great descriptions of this dynamic. Its term for someone who is too arrogant to learn is “fool.” Back during the 2016 election, I wrote this article about how well Proverbs’ description of fools matches up with Trump’s public statements: https://hubpages.com/politics/Im-an-Evangelical-and-Heres-Why-I-Will-Never-Vote-for-Donald-Trump

    I now think there’s more going on with Trump than meets the eye. Based on the data I had at the time I wrote the article, I honestly expected him to have gotten us into several wars by now. Still, you might enjoy the many shrewd psychological insights from Proverbs.

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    1. Thanks for the comment and the recommendation that I look at Proverbs. I checked out your article as well and see that we are in total agreement. Your analysis is spot on, insightful, thorough, and beautifully written. (I don’t currently have the time to fully appreciate your piece but I will look at it very closely later this evening.) Honestly, I really don’t understand what’s going on with the vast majority of those who claim to be “religious” or member of the evangelical community because they seem to be Trump supporters and very willing to overlook so much of his ugliness. Perhaps you have some insight into how they manage such unmitigated hypocrisy? I wish progressive evangelicals were more vociferous in their condemnations of both Trump and Trumpism; if they were, it would go a long way in helping more of us have more faith in those who are churchgoers. Again, thanks for your feedback. I look forward to reading your article more carefully later and then looking into the book of Proverbs. Take care.

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