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The Crux

How Arrogance and Accusation of Arrogance Make Us Less Like God

What is the true spirit behind accusing others of arrogance?

Over the years, I've observed people from many walks of life refer to someone else as arrogant and, to be honest, I've even hurled the accusation myself a few times. On the flip side, I've been the target of the same accusation. A recent confrontation got me thinking about what arrogance means, who's guilty of it, the spirit behind it, and the spirit that empowers the accusation of it. What makes us arrogant and why do we consider others to exhibit the behavior while defending our own behavior against it?

We all think we understand arrogance. Merriam-Webster calls it an "attitude of superiority". The Cambridge Dictionary associates it with being "unpleasantly proud" and "behaving as if you are more important than, or know more than, other people". Britannica has a similar definition.

The problem with these definitions is that all of them require a judgment to be made. Person A doesn't like Person B's attitude and therefore Person B is "arrogant". But maybe Person A's judgment is clouded by the fact that he doesn't like Person B and Person B is just fine.

Another thing that gets in the way of the definition of arrogance is the relativity of the terms associated with it. What is "better", and what does it mean to be "more important"? Who gets to make these determinations? If one individual is a faster runner than another and can prove that as a fact, is it arrogant for them to say so? If, say, after 100 sprinting competitions, Person A beats Person B by several seconds, doesn't Person A have the right to make the claim that she is the faster runner? And what if the two are attempting to gain the last spot on their nation's Olympic team? Can't Person A make a convincing argument that her presence on the team would be more beneficial to the team than Person B's?

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For much of my life, I've considered arrogance to be that quality that causes one to think more highly of oneself than one deserves. If Person A can outrun Person B and Person B can outrun Person C, and if those results have been proven time after time, there's no shame in Person B claiming to be superior to Person C as a sprinter, is there? But if Person B made the claim against Person A, then that would surely be arrogant.

Again, we run into a wall. Perhaps person A is the fastest at running the 100-yard dash, but what if the three athletes competed in a marathon? In that case, it might be that Person C took the top spot more consistently while Person A always placed third.

When we're talking about human endeavors such as athleticism, academics, and things measured by a stated standard, proof of performance can certainly settle matters of claim. However, in spiritual matters (and everything is a spiritual matter), none of us can stake a claim of superiority. To do so would be to elevate ourselves in the presumable eyes of God. In metaphysics, claims of superiority essentially castrate metaphysical reality itself.

How Imago Dei Strips Us of Ourselves

At the end of the day, arrogance and the accusation of arrogance are matters of pride. The man who acts arrogantly toward his fellow human beings is demonstrating pride in his own being. The man who accuses another of being arrogant simply for being himself is doing the same. We can see, then, that the accusation of arrogance requires a judgment call that none of us are qualified to make.

In the book of Genesis, we read that God created man in His image. This is what theologians call Imago Dei, a Latin term that means "the image of God". The entire human race bears that image.

If we believe that to be true, it comes with stark implications for the way we carry ourselves around others. Whether in public or among a group of friends, our aim ought to be to present ourselves as just another part of the group. The moment we act as if we deserve more respect, dignity, or apple pie than someone else in the group is the moment we cease living by the principles of Imago Dei.

Likewise, to call out someone else as arrogant simply for being themselves is equally an act of treason against the Imago Dei in all of us. The truth is, all of us have the same value to God, and not a bit more than anyone else. We are His special creation and none of us are metaphysically more important to Him than any other.

As Christians, we have an obligation to honor the image of God in all people. That doesn't mean we shouldn't share the gospel with them, nor does it mean we can't address sinful behavior. It does mean, however, that, even in the midst of difficult conversations, we must be mindful that we ourselves are as subject to sin as our unbelievers. Maybe more so.

Eve's great deception involved not understanding how much like God she really was. When Satan said, in Genesis 3:5, "... your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil", she should have responded, "I'm already like God and I don't need to know good and evil".

The result of the Fall is that Adam and Eve, and now we, know too much about good and evil. We were not intended to know those things. God intended for us to bear His image, but knowledge of ethics, morals, and good and evil get in the way of us doing so. It hindered Adam and Eve, and that's what led to their expulsion from paradise. When we elevate ourselves to judging others, we impose a self-expulsion from the joys of living in Christ, who is our paradise, our Garden of Eden if you will.

Just as their (Adam and Eve) fall from grace led to shame and a loss of joy about being in God's presence, the same occurs to us who are in Christ when we eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We judge others' motives rather than our own.

Nothing is more arrogant than that.

Allen Taylor am the author of I Am Not the King, available at Amazon and on my own website.

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#pride#arrogance#sin#imago dei#christianity#genesis#christians
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