Confidence VS Arrogance
No matter how old you are, where you’re from, or what your state of life is, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ve encountered a truly arrogant individual at least once in your life. It’s also almost guaranteed that you’ve had to battle some negative emotions towards arrogant individuals. Arrogance is almost universally understood as an ugly, unpleasant trait. Despite the high regard arrogant people hold for themselves, they typically have a hard time getting anyone to take them or their ideas seriously even if their propositions are genuinely unique or effective.
On the contrary, a confident person can propose the exact same idea and experience much greater receptivity. Confident people are likely to hold the attention of others and, even if their ideas are not accepted or employed, it is more likely that others will listen to them. Undoubtedly, one can be mistaken for the other, but there is a key difference between them.
These two different traits initially seem so alike because they both stem from pride. As Catholics, it’s natural to be repulsed at the idea of pride because it’s listed as one of the deadly sins. Anyone who’s fallen into the snare of pride knows how disastrous the consequences can be. It makes sense that arrogance, a trait universally seen as distasteful, stems from a deadly sin. But what about confidence? Confidence lacking arrogance often puts people at ease. Confident leaders are more likely to be elected to the government, employees are more likely to trust someone who seems confident in the company and its mission, and students are more receptive to confident teachers. If confidence is rooted in the same sin as arrogance, why are people so attracted to it?
The truth is that there are two kinds of pride, one sinful and one beneficial. The first kind of pride is the kind the Church recognizes as a deadly sin. This pride is sinful because it’s an excessive love for the self that stems from a belief that one’s own goodness can be attributed to oneself. In other words, this kind of pride fails to recognize God as the source of all good, including the good the individual is able to find within himself. This first kind of pride is the source of arrogance. The reason arrogance is so obnoxious is that it fails to perceive or always mitigates anything good outside of the individual.
While this kind of pride is the kind usually addressed in discussions of the spiritual life, there’s a wholly different kind of pride that is not inherently sinful but can be useful in the pursuit of virtue. This kind of pride is beneficial because its source is not found in the individual. Rather, this kind of pride is attached to something outside the person. For example, having pride in one’s culture can be healthy. Such pride leads to the protection of tradition, which in turn unites people in a common history and goal.
Furthermore, Catholics should be proud to belong to the Church. While the example of pride as patriotism is acceptable to many, there seems to be more hesitation towards the idea of pride in one’s religion. To clarify, individuals must not be proud of how they live their lives as Catholics. This would merely be another example of arrogance because the pride is rooted in and directed towards the self. On the contrary, one should be proud to belong to the one, true Church established by Jesus Christ because of the Church’s goodness rather than their own. In this instance, one’s pride is rooted in something greater than the individual; it is a pride that stems from love and appreciation of a good thing. Just as in the case of patriotism, this love inspires a desire to protect and perpetuate Tradition, a key element of the Catholic faith.
Placing one’s appreciation in something higher than the self provides confidence, and confidence makes the people around that person more likely to notice and listen; thus, confidence can be a key element of drawing others to Christ. If the way one lives and acts inclines other people to listen, it becomes easier to spread the Gospel. Some may still be wary to accept the idea that one must be confident in order to spread the Gospel, but the question must be posed: have you ever been inclined to accept something expressed by someone who didn’t seem entirely sure of what they were saying?
People of goodwill become curious about an individual who is secure in their beliefs. Of course, there will always be people who want to dismiss a Christian entirely when they learn about their faith. Unfortunately, there’s nothing to do for these people except pray that God softens their heart. But those who are genuinely interested in the truth are likely to ask a confident person why they seem so sure in what they believe. Why doesn’t this happen for arrogant people? Simply put, the only thing arrogant people truly believe in is themselves, and even those not actively pursuing the truth are able to see that this is foolish.
In short, Catholics must avoid arrogance for the sake of their salvation but it is almost equally necessary to be confident. True confidence resides in something external to and greater than the individual; it rests in God and all His goodness. Whereas arrogance repulses others, confidence draws them in and promotes dialogue. In this way, the confidence of a Christian becomes a key element of apologetics. The Christian life demands that we place our trust in God; so too we must allow this confidence to perpetuate every aspect of our daily interactions and our personality. Rather than being uncertain of ourselves, we must be confident in God's ability to perform good works through us; only then will our hearts be set aflame with the love of Christ in a way that draws others to Him.