ARROGANT PEOPLE CAN BE RIGHT 6-21-17
From my frosh year in high school up into my mid-thirties, I kept a journal. For fifty years, it has just resided in a file drawer. Now I am reading it again, with considerable surprise, both at how much I have forgotten, and at… well, how arrogant I was. I had forgotten my arrogance, too.
I was a campus minister in the 1960s. We hired students part-time to help with the ministry, being administrative or worship or small group assistants. Apparently I had asked Paul Darling to be one of those, and my journal records that he told me that he could not work with me because I was so arrogant. My journal was not surprised at this. In fact, it agreed and said that I needed to work on my arrogance. Stupid journal. Sorry I kept it. Sorry I re-read it.
It’s probably right, though. I was pretty well convinced back then that I knew the truth about a lot of stuff. I still do. Now though I’m quite aware of the limits of my knowledge and of the extent of my ignorance. So maybe I was successful in working on my arrogance. Of course, maybe thinking that is arrogant in itself.
As I look back on it, I think of myself not as arrogant but sure. The major issue of the day was racial segregation and discrimination. I was sure that was wrong, and it irritated me considerably when “good” people, especially church people, tried to excuse it or rationalize it or justify it. I was not timid in saying they were wrong.
The second major issue was the war in Viet Nam. After initially supporting it, I came to realize that it was wrong and extremely harmful in so many ways, not only to Viet Nam but to the USA. I was certain of that, and I was clear in expressing my position, personally and publicly.
I was on a panel for some event at Illinois Wesleyan University during that time. Robert Eckley was the new IWU president and introduced the panel members. When he came to me, he said, “You never have any trouble knowing where this man stands.” I was pleased that I had that reputation, but I was surprised that Dr. Eckley even knew who I was. Apparently my reputation for certainty or arrogance or whatever it was went wider than I knew.
I too often chose the wrong battles for my certainty, sure I was right about a lot of things that didn’t matter all that much. But I’m glad I was on the right side for the big ones, even if my certainty was interpreted as arrogance.
Just as paranoids can have real enemies, sometimes arrogant people are right.
I tweet as yooper1721.