If you know me, this article is for you. If you’ve ever discovered my arrogant heart by teaching me or disagreeing with me, this is for you.
In a more general sense, if you’ve ever tried to collaborate with or constructively critique another person, and they lacked the teachability or humility needed to receive your words, this is for you too.
I first titled this article “Confessions of an Arrogant Soul,” but I changed it for two reasons: First, an “arrogant heart” is a biblical phrase I’ve seen throughout Scripture (Psalm 101:5; Isaiah 10:12). Second, I wanted to use the word heart because in my struggle with arrogance I’ve had to confront the fallenness of my own desires.
For there was a part of me that loved my arrogance. It established deep roots in my heart. And in my pursuit of this sin, I did the following:
1.) I covered up my arrogance by saying “I’m just opinionated.”
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. (Proverbs 18:2)
A euphemism is a word or phrase used to make something sound better. This is a great tool when used appropriately. For example, when you need to convince your child that the flu shot won’t hurt as much as they expect, you say it’s “just a poke.”
However, this same tool can be used for ill purposes. For example, when I convince myself that my arrogance isn’t a sin, but it’s just that I’m an opinionated person.
As if the disposition to have strong opinions makes me any less culpable! The definition of arrogant is being “disposed to exaggerate one’s own worth or importance often by an overbearing manner.” If I am naturally compelled to make sure everyone else knows what my opinion is, am I not exaggerating my own worth?
As Proverbs reveals, part of the problem in getting over my sin is that I have to admit something embarrassing: I have taken more pleasure in stating my opinion than in actually learning the truth. My euphemism was a cover-up.
Jesus knew the heart of man and he uncovered its filth:
For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. (Mark 7:21)
There is a grace to these hard words. Jesus is helping us see that there are real, glaring problems inside of us. And we won’t ever be redeemed from them if we can’t call them what they really are.
2.) I refused to listen.
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. (Matthew 18:15)
I once shared a story about how I took a critique well from a friend of mine in college. That was far from normal for me.
My arrogant heart causes me to love myself. Now consider the social implication of that. If someone comes to me and admonishes me, even lovingly, my pride pushes back in defense of my self. Because, in sin, I love me and not anything outside of me.
The verse from Matthew above uses the word listen and clearly it means something more than hear. In this situation, a person is going to another person and telling them about some fault. There would be no gain if the person with the fault said, “I hear you, but I will do nothing about it.” No! Listening here has to do with acknowledgment and repentance.
My arrogance may allow me to hear someone’s critique, and I may even be able to recite it perfectly back to them. But if I cling to my pride, I will not change.
An arrogant heart is in danger of bringing upon itself eternal consequences. Look at Matthew 17:5, where God the Father said of Jesus: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
Certainly, God the Father was saying not only hear Him but also Follow him. Be changed by his words. If we are arrogant in heart, we will miss the wonderful message of salvation found in Jesus Christ.
3.) I desired controversy.
If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words… (1 Timothy 6:3-4)
This verse is talking about teaching, but I think it also applies to conversations in small groups or over the dinner table.
As I got older, I started to realize just how prideful I was, even in talking theology with family friends, because I began to see how I craved disagreement. I liked getting into arguments—not so I could help others or learn more but so I could win.
In loving my pride, I neglected Jesus’s teachings. I neglected the importance of repentance and reliance on His righteousness. And, I sought after my own glory than living for the glory of the king.
In doing so, I dragged others into the whirlwind of pride as well. I was a stumbling block—looking for controversy and hoping to disrupt the unity of Christian fellowship with unimportant quarrels.
God’s Word Gives Me A Clean Heart
Christ’s death on the cross purchased for me right standing with God. In Christ, I am justified. I am no longer a slave to sin. And, in Christ, I am promised more than justification. Christ promises to perfect (complete) me:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16, italics added)
In my pursuit of perfection, I want to be rid of my arrogant heart. I want to have a heart that is perfectly inclined toward the glory of God. But, I cannot do this. I cannot change myself.
But this verse shows me that Scripture has the power to do that. And so, in response to newfound sin in my life, I read Christ’s word and cry out to Him, like the Psalmist, and say:
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)