Exit Haughtiness, Enter Humility

Robert Roth

My brown, battered-and-taped Random House Dictionary of the English Language defines haughty as “disdainfully proud, snobbish, arrogant.” Haughty is the opposite of humble.

It’s easy to think of other people who should be a little more humble and a lot less haughty—the ones who think they’re better than us, who put down our friends, who never say hi. Yet, to understand why other people are arrogant, we may want to take a look at times when we have been stuck-up and how we got that way.


Orange and Black, Black and Blue

Robert Roth2In ninth grade, I became Mr. Haughty. I should have been Mr. Humble going into my freshman year of football, but you know how that goes. The good players had all been promoted to the junior varsity team, leaving the freshman team for anyone willing to put on shoulder pads and gut it out in practice. Guys like me.

I was pumped for our first game. Wearing a shiny white helmet and my clean white uniform with orange and black numbers and trim, I jogged with my teammates onto the field. The voices of pretty cheerleaders filled the air: “Orange ’n’ Black, fight, fight, fight!” Here’s the best part: I would be a starting lineman on both the offense and the defense.

I would come out of this a hero—#71: The Best! (Yep, I was really haughty.)

We were playing a junior high team, a bunch of punk seventh and eighth graders; but they were from a city thirty miles away, and we were small-town kids. As they came onto the field and lined up against us, we had to look up—way up—to look them in the eye. They were scary. They looked like the Green Bay Packers.

For four quarters, play after play, they ran all over us. Every time they got the ball, they made a touchdown in two or three plays. Every time we got the ball, it was three plays and a punt—except when it was one down, a fumble, and their ball again. And I had to stay on the field the entire ugly time. At the bitter end, the scoreboard told the whole story: Home 0, Visitors 81.

Was I a hero? Not a chance!


Sports and the Bible

For some people, sports and the Bible work well together. For me, this game was the beginning of my ambivalence about football (although, strangely enough, I stuck with it through four years and one knee surgery) and my attraction to the Bible and the church (which I have stuck with for life). Even in the ninth grade, I saw the church as a place where people love and care for those who are down-and-out, just as Jesus did. Feeling like a down-and-outer myself, the compassion of the Bible and the church held real appeal for me.


Above Everybody Else?

Throughout our lives, we receive free offers to be snobs. Cool clothes can do it—so can a better school, musical skills, top test scores, more money. Understanding the temptation and being in a fellowship group or a circle of friends that values other things can help point us in another direction. Sometimes being on the 0 end of an 81–0 score does the trick.


The Alternative: Humility

What is the alternative to arrogance? Romans 12:16 (NRSV) says, “Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.” 

We can choose humility, cooperation, and love, even as we choose to follow the way of Jesus Christ. However, choosing to let go of foolish pride is a day-after-day, lifelong process.

Growing in faith involves a journey from haughtiness to humility, from an ego trip to a spiritual walk. In our hearts, wouldn’t each of us choose love, friendship, trust, and hope over being a jerk?


devozine Journaling TS 78395952


Write the names of two people you have looked down on. Now write the names of two people who have looked down on you. Reflect on what it would be like to “live peaceably with all,” as Romans 12:18 encourages us to do. Write the four names again. This time pray for each person as you write his or her name. Finally, pray for a fifth person: yourself. Remember, as you pray, that God is a God of love and forgiveness.

Robert Roth of East Lansing, Michigan, loves to watch baseball, while quietly avoiding all football broadcasts.

—from devozine (July/August 2009). Copyright © 2009 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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