The Absence of Arrogance


“By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life.” – Proverbs 22:4

Someone asked Katherine Graham, Washington D.C. socialite and former publisher of the Washington Post this question, “What is the single most important trait of all great leaders?” Graham, whose parties were legendary, answered without pausing, “the absence of arrogance.” Graham who had hosted kings and queens, presidents and celebrities, had no question as to the presence of humility and the absence of arrogance.

Arrogance is defined as “an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner.” It is further defined as having presumptuous claims or feelings of entitlement. Synonyms include conceit, pride, self-importance and egotism. Humility, the opposite of arrogance could be defined as “knowing who God is, and who you are not.”

In my 57 years of ministry, I have experienced more than my share of arrogant, proud and boastful people. Among them were many pastors and Christian leaders who reeked of arrogance, and self-importance. There are numerous Christian leaders who have reached celebrity status and elevated themselves above the people they are intended to serve. I could easily name several examples, but you probably know some of them already.

I prefer to share with you a story about a man whom I considered a Christian statesman, and one who showed a remarkable absence of arrogance in his life. I was attending a national Charismatic Christian leaders meeting, and throughout the meeting I found myself sitting near a distinguished, middle-aged gentleman who was unusually quiet. I finally got up enough courage to go over to him, sit down and introduce myself. He responded in return, “I’m Dallas Willard.” I said, “There is a Christian author by the same name.” He replied, “I’m afraid that’s me.”

WOW! My first thought was, “What are you doing here in this meeting?” Might I add that this particular year’s meeting was, in my mind, lightweight and somewhat flakey. My second thought was “Why are you not speaking?” To me, having read his books, Dallas Willard was a giant spiritually and certainly a statesman.

Throughout the meeting, Dallas was never introduced, never spoke a word, and was never asked a question (although there were many opportunities for him to have done so). Although I do not know, I suspect that he had requested of the conference leaders that he not be recognized or introduced. Willard seemed to feel no need for anyone to know who he was. This made an incredible mark on me, which I have never forgotten.

In contrast, so many are eager to tell you who they are, what they have done, and rarely do they indicate any interest in knowing more about those who are around them.

I had always felt that humility was one of my cardinal virtues – until I got “bent out of shape” by the fact that I did not receive an award that I “knew” was to be mine. But, that’s another story for another day.

What about you? Are you perceived as proud and arrogant? When your legacy has been finalized, will you be remembered as one who displayed “a lack of arrogance”?

Maybe you should ask God where you stand. If you are serious and sincere, He will show you. He did me!

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