Let me just start by confessing that I’ve written this blog three different times. Why? Because I’m a closet perfectionist and arrogance is a champion at masquerading itself. On the upside, I’ve been learning a lot about irony, as I’ve had to screen my blog(s) about arrogance for the very kind of arrogance I intend to discourage. The justice is sweet.
In case this spins off the rails or gets hijacked by my cynical side again, this is my point: As followers of Christ, we must pursue humility above being right.
I was listening to (too many) podcasts on my drive across the state, and came across one called the Pale Blue Dot by The Liturgists. Michael Gungor and Mike McHargue—those who put out this podcast—were discussing climate change and it’s impending consequences. Though I highly recommend listening to their articulation of climate-related issues, the part of this episode that caught my attention most was the way they framed this global issue.
The podcast began by discussing earth from the perspective of space. When I’m in the comfort of my own neighborhood or city, it’s easy to feel safe, content, and like I know everything there is to know about my context. But what happens if, within the confines of a metaphoric rocket, I saw my city become a small dot in the midst of my state, and my state a mere fraction of my country, and my country only a portion of my continent, and at last I broke through the egg-shell of an ozone layer that separates me from the lethal atmosphere of the universe, and suddenly I realize that my ‘territory’ that is so familiar and manageable to me, is a measly molecule in the context of a vast and powerful universe.
From this perspective, I find it very difficult to remain certain about the way I think and the things I supposedly know. For from this angle I see our smallness, our dependency and our ignorance. I am made of the same humanity, the same elements, the same intelligence (or frequent lack thereof) as both the people I love and agree with and the people I am infuriated by, disgusted by, or convinced I am better than (though it is scary to even admit that this superior attitude exists, it exists nonetheless).
In other words, I can’t seem to sustain a posture of arrogance when I realize my true position in the world, which is not one of enlightenment, but one of ignorance.
(Side note: Wendell Berry wrote an excellent essay about this called “The Way of Ignorance,” and I highly recommend it if you want to delve into this use of language further; this piece, similar to the podcast, circles back to the topic of our environment)
The reason I bring up all of this in the first place is because it helped me realize this: when being right is my goal, I find myself propelled toward a fixed theology, a fixed morality and a fixed ideology. Which always makes me fight with my parents and cry a lot. When I am motivated by humility, however, I find myself propelled toward learning, listening, questioning and opening myself. I find myself compelled to dispel hostility, rather than perpetuate it. To draw near to people that I would naturally avoid or overlook. To invite people to be vulnerable because I’d rather hear their perspective than attack it.
Humility is a fundamental aspect of who Christ is (even though he was, unlike the rest of us, actually always right and has far more reason to be arrogant than any of us do). May we, as his people, be foundationally humble, not fundamentally right.
Lord, forgive our arrogance and teach us to emulate your deep humility.