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June 6, 2012

“Three Lawyers in Conversation” by Honore Daumier (PD-ArtlPD-old-100)

Talk no more so very proudly; let no arrogance come from your mouth, for the Lord is the God of knowledge; and by Him actions are weighed” (1 Sam. 2: 3).

In case you have not noticed, we lawyers have a tendency toward arrogance. The trait is not what anyone would call Christian, and does not exactly endear us to others.

Oh, arrogance has its uses. Arrogance can intimidate those who believe the sight of a chest being pounded signifies strength. Sometimes we pound our chests to convince ourselves of that very thing.

Arrogance may be employed defensibly, as armor against the barrage of barbs, disappointments, and failures we must be prepared to endure, in the hope of ultimate success on behalf of our clients. The world, by contrast, views hope as an emotion not worth acknowledging. Hope might imply weakness, because it admits of the possibility of defeat. Defeats bounce off arrogance; they can be blamed on circumstances or the errors of subordinates – though, deep down, we know the truth.

Utilized as a ruse, arrogance will make resources appear more ample than they really are. This can buy us time, both to lick our wounds and craft a new strategy. Animal behaviorists tell us the appearance of success may even have evolutionary advantages.

But there is a long-term cost to arrogance as a strategy. Behind the bravura, we grow smaller and smaller, while our limitations loom larger and larger. The little man behind the curtain does not gain in stature, whatever the size of the illusion he projects.

Those who love us, despite our faults, let us go on about ourselves – even at a cost to themselves – sometimes for years. We are concealing nothing from them by our grandiose performances. They recognize – usually before we do – that arrogance is an attempt to hide our shortcomings, to assign blame lest it fall upon us.

Do we dare adopt humility, the antithesis of arrogance? It is certainly not a characteristic for which attorneys are known. Humility would involve admitting our limitations – to God and ourselves. It would require accepting responsibility for our mistakes, giving credit where credit is due, and treating all with respect, regardless of their status.

Whatever our talents, they derive from God. It is upon Him we rely for the strength on which we pride ourselves. Yet the strength we consider our own is finite, while God’s is infinite. If we are to accomplish truly great things, to persevere when perseverance is foolhardy in the world’s eyes, we must trade our strength for His.

Arrogance inflates the ego while simultaneously weakening it. Humility gives thanks for our achievements first to God where it rightly belongs. This does not diminish our worth, but rather put it in proper perspective. It is, in fact, liberating since we need no longer support an illusion.

So, arrogance v. humility. Which will you choose?


From → Christian, Law, Religion

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