The Problem with Arrogance

7 deadly sins

Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found at Thinker Boy:  Blog & Art.

When I was growing up, there was a very common euphemism that was used when referring to those who behaved arrogantly.  Such people were said to be “full of themselves.”  I don’t know if folks still use this phrase or not.  Today, because the average person generally spends less time beating around the bush, it is highly likely that he or she would be more direct, saying the following instead: “Arrogant people are full of shit.”

Because arrogant people are full of themselves and they are, by definition, shitty people, that makes them full of shit.   I suppose I’ve just proved, using a kind of syllogistic logic, that arrogant people can be both full of themselves and shitty.  Actually, they are shitty because they are very much themselves.

(You can probably tell that I really get off on playing around with language and ideas.)

I wanted to be sure to start this one off by letting you know, in no uncertain terms, what I think of arrogance and those who display it in their behavior.  Today, most Americans—and I am one; at least my passport makes this assertion—are really getting schooled on arrogance because we have a president who is so effusively self-congratulatory that I actually end up either blushing or cringing every single time he speaks about any subject.  Invariably, no matter the topic at hand, he’ll find some way to brag and then pat himself on the back.  I find such behavior juvenile and off-putting in the extreme.

I want to pivot away from Trump and start talking about arrogance in general.  It was good, though, that I began this blog with him because he is a prime example of one of the main ways arrogance negatively affects a person, so I’ll return to the subject of America’s obnoxious president very shortly.

Arrogance is not one of the Seven Deadly Sins but it should be.  When we behave arrogantly we sin against ourselves and others.  We sin against ourselves by believing, quite falsely, that we are the greatest.  Being the greatest means that we are the most capable, the most intelligent, etc., etc., etc.  It means we are superior in every way and therefore there is no one—and I mean NO ONE—who can tell us anything that we don’t already know.  The arrogant see themselves as the founts of all knowledge.  They see themselves as sages.  They are the enlightened and the experts.  Everyone should listen to what they have to say.  They don’t need to open their ears, though, because there is nothing they need to hear or learn.  There is no one who is capable of teaching them anything they don’t already know.

Arrogance is a form of delusion.  Arrogance is the enemy of good thinking.  Arrogance closes the ears and the mind and opens the mouth.  But what comes from the mouth is pure braggadocio.

Arrogance is causing Trump to self-destruct.  All people who behave arrogantly end up destroying themselves.  They push away people and ideas they need to embrace.  They worship themselves and never realize that they are nothing but false idols.  I’d feel sorry for them if I didn’t despise them so much.

I’m curious to hear what you’ve thought of this piece and the arguments I’ve made here.  The floor is yours…


21 thoughts on “The Problem with Arrogance

  1. Yes! But I’m getting better at not getting so worked up by arrogance. I’m finding it causes overload and impairs my judgment. I also wonder why I used to act so strongly against egotistical behavior. I think many people who have respect for their own knowledge and try not to be blowhards get upset when they see others letting it rip without regard for others’ feelings or opinions. It’s like driving in traffic, for me. I could certainly run those red lights, even if I’m pretty close after they change. But constraining myself sets a model of behavior based on the rules and etiquette. When I see others running the light, I get pissed off, because I made the effort to follow the rules. And it’s not that hard to follow the rules.

    1. I totally get what you’re saying and I really appreciate the idea of self-control. I also try to exert a lot of control over my impulses. My beef with arrogance is rooted in the idea that I cherish (that’s not nearly a strong enough word) being open and moving through the world knowing that I know almost nothing. Those who would close themselves to listening, observing, learning, considering, experiencing, empathizing, etc really commit the closest thing to sin that I can think of. (I don’t like using the word “sin” because of its religious connotation.) But closing oneself off to the world and new ideas is so egregious that I can find no better word to describe such an action. By the way, I really thank you for this comment. I’m definitely going to need to thing about it for a time.

      1. I understand. 🙂 Sin originally was an archery term meaning “missing the mark,” which is really relevant to your comment. Oh! It took me a long long time to come to terms with this type of personal management. There are occasions when I might be considered running a red light. I also believe that too many people take credit for natural gifts. Which is absurd. They spend time in strutting rather than use them responsibly.

  2. I’m curious to know what you mean when you say Trump will self-destruct. What about him (or arrogant people generally) will be destroyed and how?
    He will certainly stop being president at some point, either through election or time but he will always have been president and I assume he will consider that to be a success.

    1. It is an undeniable fact that he is president and has therefore succeeded in being elected to that position. We all succeed mostly by learning, growing, and evolving. We learn by listening to others and observing. The arrogant move through the world wearing blinders and with cotton stuffed in their ears. He is being investigated and needs to be open to receiving advise from those who have it and are willing to give it to him. Because he doesn’t think he needs to learn or listen or change, he will end up taking action (or avoid taking action) that leads to his downfall.

      1. I missed the bit about him being investigated (I’m not paying too much attention to the Trump soap opera over here).
        So self-destruction will mean dropping from enormously high status to just enormously privileged. I imagine that will be bearable (but maybe not, it will certainly be a test of his ego strength). I think I’m more concerned about the damage his high status ‘arrogance’ does to others

  3. Arrogance is a subset of pride. So, it is safe to say it is included in the seven deadly sins.

    One question you might want to consider is: where is the line between confidence and arrogance? Who is drawing that line?

    Take someone like Elon Musk. Whether someone views him as confident or arrogant, the determination may be dependent on the confidence of the person doing the evaluation. It’s subjective. Any statement by one person often says more about the person making the evaluation than the one being evaluated.

    1. The sorts of questions you asked were very similar to the kinds of things I was pondering while I was writing this. For example, I almost walked away from this piece because I felt like my writing about arrogance was, itself, an act of arrogance. After all, who am I to jump up on a soapbox and pontificate so loudly!

      It’s certainly a matter of degree. Arrogance is pridefulness on steroids. Being prideful becomes problematic at the point when the individual feels like he or she no longer needs others or facts and such. I distinctly recall, during the George Bush administration, someone saying that Bush and his ilk no longer needed to pay attention to “reality” because they had become the makers of reality. (That’s a paraphrase.) That’s pretty damn weird. When a person gets drunk just thinking about himself, I think we might be at the point where arrogance begins.

      Certainly, I will admit that this blog reveals a lot about who I am and how I feel about Trump. There’s no debate there.

      I hope you keep commenting on the blogs I write here because you’ve pushed me to think in ways that I find extremely helpful and healthy.

      I also plan to look at your blog and read some of your stuff. I anticipate that it’s going to be really good.

      1. I thought the same. But, it’s true. We each create our own reality. I’ve recently heard, “No one knows enough to be 100% wrong,” and I thought it was an important idea. Even Trump, as vain, dumb, etc., as he is, has some things right. Should we be in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, or Venezuela? The answers by the elite political establishment, both Democrats and Republicans, have a bipartisan consensus on this question and many others. It’s interesting when it gets to the point of being looked at anew, the answers tend to cleave down party lines, with the minority party generally taking the opposite position regardless of logic.

        Obama got elected on a platform of lets get out of forever war. Yet, Democrats are against getting out of Syria. Where has been the push against what’s going on in Yemen? And what’s up with the Gulf states and Qatar?

        When you start looking at details, particularly around foreign policy, it is hard to argue that any of it makes much sense beyond being someone’s lunch.

  4. Hmm… I think we often most dislike the qualities we see in other people that we hate about ourselves. When we recognize, and are strongly repulsed by arrogance in others it’s a way to separate ourselves from that quality.

    “I could never be that arrogant,” we tell ourselves. But on some level, we fear the opposite is true.

    I think the thing that really gets to people about arrogance is that it represents such a strong disconnect between the projected self and the self as recognized by others.

    The arrogant person presents a facade of self-assurance and unearned confidence in their capabilities–they may even believe it themselves. But no one else buys it. Their weakness is transparent to everyone else.

    What if our weakness is also transparent, and we are too arrogant to notice? Does our ire in the face of arrogance stem in part from our desire to attack such obvious weakness, before our own weakness can be discovered?

    I think our own insecurities can play into what we perceive as arrogance, or condescension, or disrespect. The battle is really against our own sense of powerlessness.

    I mean, some people are just assholes, but even then, assholery is in part a response to what the asshole perceives as assholes surrounding them.

    Trump for instance, is an arrogant asshole, but he also believes the media, immigrants, anyone who disagrees with him is actually out to get him. The world seems unjust towards him personally, even though he is objectively one of the most privileged people on the planet.

    Arrogance, like most forms of self-delusion is essentially a defense mechanism.

    1. Your comment was a full meal. It’s going to take me quite some time to fully consume it and then go through the digestive process.

      I’ve long been fascinated with the “self,” this thing we inhabit and create and are created by. It’s both a mask and the thing which reveals more about us then we’d like others to see.

      Trump is a complex study. There are times when I think he’s just putting on a show, that he’s one of the greatest actors of all time. If this were not true about him, how could he hate immigrants yet be married to one?

      Have you ever had the experience of videotaping yourself and then watching the video later. It’s really a terrifying experience because this is probably as close as we’ll ever get to seeing ourselves objectively.

      Again, thanks for the super cool comment. By the way, do you blog? If so, send me a link. I’d love to look at some of your stuff.

      1. Haha. Yeah I write too much. I blog at but I just started and it’s mostly Game of Thrones stuff right now 🙂

        Uff. And I hate seeing myself on camera! It is very jarring to realize just how easy I am to read. I have a really expressive face and I often think I am hiding my emotions better than I actually am…

  5. Thanks to all those who are liking this blog and commenting on it! If you write or make art, post your links here so I can check out your stuff! I always love to discover cool new sites.

  6. As you said, arrogant people are not likely to listen to new information or a different perspective. Back in the day, that probably presented less problems than it would today. Today’s world is evolving so rapidly, it’s becoming necessary to constantly be updating skills and practices.

    I think it’s important to know your strengths, but not be blinded to your weaknesses. I think that’s the main fault with arrogance- you don’t see anything that needs improvement. Improvement is something we should strive for daily, not just to showboat or keep up with the Joneses. They are truly missing out on some amazing conversations and relationships.

    1. Thank you for this insightful comment. My main beef with the arrogant is that they see themselves as self-actualized when, in fact, they often need to work on themselves a great deal. Just as an experiment, read Abraham Maslow’s description of the personalities of the self-actualized. You will be interested to discover that he lists humility as one indicator of a person who has reached the pinnacle of human development.

      1. A very interesting read indeed. I can see why that would be abrasive. Self-actualization seems like a good place to be (maybe even something we cycle through at various moments in our lives), but also something that takes work. I’ve noticed arrogant people don’t want to work that hard, maybe because they feel they don’t need to? I genuinely enjoyed reading about self-actualization, though. I will definitely be perusing more information about it. Thanks for the recommendation.

  7. I see Arrogance as an offshoot of Pride – therefore one of the 7 Deadly.

    I don’t know that T will self-destruct; he’s gone so much farther than I ever imagined possible for him to go into arrogance, pride, and general rudeness, that I don’t think there is a possible end. I can’t believe that it’s gotten this far.

    Arrogance is so unattractive – I guess it’s like wearing blinders to your own limitations. We’re supposed to be far more clever than that, self actualizing and able to look at our own points of view with a level of pragmatism. I think we’re failing there.

    1. Thank you for this interesting comment. Like you, I can’t actually understand what happened to the nation that it would elect someone like Donald Trump. He’s brought out the worst in so many of us. I use him as an examine of the supremely arrogant person, but many of his supporters come off that way too. They are so sure of themselves and so easily dismiss other points of view which they conveniently call “fake news.” Perhaps arrogance is one of those diseases of the personality that is contagious? That’s something I’ll need to ponder.

      1. I’m not sure how true this is (just putting in why I think the arrogant follow the arrogant), but most arrogant people I know have the same sort of mind set. They lack the ability to see other people’s perspective or feel empathy for others (because, hey, their life hasn’t been so easy either- what they would say). They just can’t see why other people’s problems should be their problem.

        Perhaps it also has to do with the fact that, since the arrogant believe they need no improvement, they know other arrogant people will not question their judgement or credentials. They see that they have the same line of logic, so they must know what they’re talking about.

  8. Snap! No doubt you just saw I just posted an article that looks at arrogance. We need to be sure tho that we don’t confuse Confidence (or getting on with it) with Arrogance. Many do and that is a form of arrogance in itself. Normally as Kamber is saying above to cover their own arrogance.

    As for Trump, it is such a tricky one to judge in the moment as he is such a master of media that he says, “look left” and goes right. I think only perspective and cool heads will ever let us see what Trump really is. He is definitely the man of the times either way.


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