There’s a Proverb for That: “I’m Awesome, Just Ask Me”
This kicks off a series of posts on practical and relevant wisdom from the book of Proverbs. We will begin with the issue of pride and arrogance.
We are always looking for answers to problems. We look to scholars, scientists, researchers, philosophers, self-help gurus and religion for answers. Though it is not necessarily a bad idea to consult some of those sources, thankfully for Christians, there is an entire book of the Bible filled with practical wisdom for everyday life in the 21st century—even though it was written thousands of years ago!
That is the book of Proverbs. The wisdom contained in this book is invaluable for us as human beings, and it covers a wide variety of topics. In this series, we will explore the wisdom from Proverbs applied to modern societal problems, controversies and roadblocks.
If we think there’s nothing wrong with us, we have something wrong with us
Politicians like to talk about their strengths and make even their weaknesses still sound like strengths (“I guess my greatest weakness is that I care so much”). The “know it all” personality is alive and well, creating a culture of looking down on others who may not know everything about everything. Just look at comments on YouTube videos and online news articles for evidence of people who think they “know it all” and who aggressively put down people who they feel know nothing. Self-righteousness can be detected in all ideologies.
But God has a different expectation. He says He “resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Since we should be seeking God’s grace and not His resistance, humility should be an issue we are very concerned about! Thankfully, there’s a proverb for that!
Proverbs and implications
1. Proverbs 13:10: “By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom.”
“Know it all” personalities are not the most popular people for good reason. It is very hard to be likable and listen to other viewpoints if we think we are always right, all the time.
Since we should be seeking God’s grace and not His resistance, humility should be an issue we are very concerned about! This brings strife into relationships and makes for awkward and drawn-out conversations. Being well-advised doesn’t mean we believe every viewpoint we hear, but we respect and listen long enough to make wise judgments about them.
Implications: We must take time to actually listen to other people’s perspectives, especially those whose opinions are different from ours. We may still disagree afterward, but a humble person will at least listen and be open to learning, while pride is thinking we already have all the answers. If you struggle with listening to others, try this strategy: Do not respond in conversation until counting 5 seconds in your head after they have spoken. This can help you to take the time to think about what the other person said.
2. Proverbs 16:18: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
To err is human, and those who think they rarely (or never) err should consider that this thinking is flawed and dangerous. Many who have issues with pride give platitudes to this effect, saying, “I’m not perfect, but …” and then proceed to describe how perfect they think they are. This is dangerous because it is not true. No human being is perfect, and all will make mistakes (Romans 3:23). History shows many examples of prideful and haughty people eventually falling (consider Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Saddam Hussein, to name a few).
Implications: Instead of only glorifying our strengths, we should also identify and admit our weaknesses. Whenever we criticize others, we should consider our own imperfections and issues. Many Shakespearean characters never recognized and dealt with their fatal flaws (pride often being one of them), which never turned out well. Let’s strive to be wiser than fictional characters like Hamlet and Macbeth.
3. Proverbs 21:4: “A haughty look, a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked are sin.”
Self-righteous thinking, condescending remarks, looking down our noses at others—these are not just personality quirks. They are sins. Yes, there are times that require confidence in our strengths and bravery to use them, but when we demonstrate these traits constantly, unnecessarily and artificially, they become arrogance and pride.
Implications: View pride as any other sin that God hates, not just as an undesirable character trait (which it is as well). Since pride is so hard to see in ourselves, we need a team made up of friends and family whom we can go to and ask honest questions about ourselves: “How often do I ask about you? Do I constantly praise myself? Do I come across as a know-it-all?”
Yes, asking these questions could bring some uncomfortable answers. But, considering how serious the Bible is on this subject, would it not be better to be uncomfortable than to face the consequences of pride?
Plenty more where those came from
Proverbs has plenty to say about pride and arrogance, to the tune of at least 17 different wise reminders. The few mentioned here, however, provide the overall gist of the matter: Pride and arrogance are serious character flaws that will unnecessarily isolate us from other people and ultimately lead to our undoing. When that lure comes looking for us, remember there’s a proverb for that.