How to Be Compassionate with Arrogant People

Confession time: I struggle with arrogant people.

They get under my skin and make me uglier than I care to admit. Whether it be chance conversations or sustained interactions, my heart can grow colder in the presence of someone who thinks more of themselves than I think they should.

Now, the truth is my reaction to another’s arrogance often reveals my own–I feel humbled and I try distancing myself to feel better. That is a problem in itself. When that happens, repentance is in order.

But you know what else is helping me grow in compassion? Recognizing that behind much of the arrogance we see in others is a deep self-loathing, emptiness.

Early in my pastoral ministry I spent quite a lot of time with a young man who, by anyone’s casual definition, was one of the most arrogant, boastful, self-centred people you’ve ever met.  I kid you not–every conversation was an illumination of his amazing-ness. You almost always left feeling smaller. But as I spent more time with him, I began to see things that changed my view of him, gaping holes in his heart that grew my compassion for him. I realized that this man, who most people pushed away, desperately needed love.

And I’ve seen that since, many times over.

When interacting with arrogant people, here’s what I’ve noticed that has helped me react less defensively and love more intentionally. Maybe it’s not true of every arrogant person we meet, but I’ve been astonished at how often these really are the case.

5 Things About Arrogant People That Helps Grow My Compassion

  1. Arrogant people are often compensating for deep wounds. Behind all the one-upping and positioning is often a person who has been deeply hurt–much of their actions are an attempt to dull that searing pain. Shocking stories of abuse, neglect and harm lurk within.
  2. Arrogant people are often filled with self-loathing. Even though it may not feel like it, all the self-congratulating stories, the incessant boasting, the constant attempts to get you to see them as “better”–all of it–flows from a deep-seated conviction that they are worthless.
  3. Arrogant people are often desperate for someone to notice them. Yes, they make it tough for themselves. Yes, they misplace where they need the attention. But if you can look past what they are saying with their lips and see what they are screaming from their hearts, you will often see someone who feels invisible and unnoticed.hiding behind a facade
  4. Arrogant people often put up false-fronts to hide the true vacuum within. Because they feel empty and worthless and unlovable, arrogant people try to impress you with things they’ve achieved–what else do they have?
  5. Arrogant people are usually deeply deceived. The thing is, they don’t think they are being arrogant. They lack self-awareness and don’t realize how their actions push people away, which in turn feeds more deeply into their own hurt, their self-loathing, and their feelings of invisibility and emptiness. Remembering this makes me more gentle in my approach.

So what can we do? How can we become more compassionate toward arrogant people? 

  1. Be patient with them. Stay in relationship. It’s so easy to push away, ignore and avoid. Which is what many people do. Be the person who stays connected, believing that over time, you will begin to see and love this person as Jesus does.
  2. Be honest with them without getting defensive. I don’t think it’s wrong to say, when appropriate, “You know, when you tell me stories like that, you make me feel small and defensive. I don’t want to react that way to you.”  
  3. Don’t join the game. Refuse to match their boastful story with one of your own. Focus on what is really true, what truly matters. Don’t let the way they make you feel in the moment determine how you speak and act.
  4. Look past the facade and hear what they are saying with their hearts. Then speak to that. For example, “I want you to know that I don’t care for you because you are successful or pretty or smart. I care for you because you are made in the image of God.” 
  5. Pray. Pray for them to experience God’s deep, transforming love. And ask the Holy Spirit to help you show them unconditional love.

Let me ask you:

  • How have you typically responded to arrogant people?

  • What has been helped you become more compassionate toward them?


Reconciliation always comes at a cost

There is no such thing as free reconciliation.

Whether we’re talking about repairing estranged friendships, correcting systemic abuse or redeeming human beings to the Creator, reconciliation costs.

But sometimes we approach difficult situations believing we should be able to settle everything without giving anything up, without any cost to either party.  But if reconciliation were painless, then either someone did not really understand the nature of the problem and walked away still unaware of the actual need for reconciliation, or there never was much of a break in the first place.

jesus-christ-on-the-crossOur primary example is, of course, Jesus Christ himself. If we ever get to thinking reconciliation is painless, we need only to look to the cross. Reconciliation–confronting the evil, the sin, the hurt, the difficulty with the express intent of naming, forgiving and overcoming it in the name of Jesus and for the sake of restoration–we measure that cost out in blood.

So when we consider our own need for reconciliation, to make things right between individuals, families, churches, ethnicities, nations–we must accept the costs associated with that reconciliation. We follow Jesus, who hung on a cross bloodied with sin so that we (and by that I mean “all of us together”) can be restored relationally.  To be reconcilers in this world, we will suffer. It will cost. We will bleed.

But reconciliation is worth the cost. Just ask Jesus.

Before you fight, be thankful. It could be the difference between health or death.


All relationships have conflict. How you conflict determines whether or not your relationships will grow healthier, or deteriorate.

Last week, when reading through Acts and 1 & 2 Thessalonians as part of our Erickson Covenant Community Bible Experience, I was struck by how thankful Paul was for these Jesus followers in the ancient city of Thessalonica.  All through both letters, he expresses how thankful he is for them, at least four times.

Does that mean he had nothing difficult to say? No area that needed to be addressed or practices to be corrected? Not at all. There were things going on this community that Paul was concerned about, but they were not the dominant tone of his letter–thanksgiving was.

So here’s the challenge that emerged for me: when I have to address something difficult, or when going into a tricky conversation, I need to remember why I am thankful for this person. When we are deep into conflict, this might feel counter-intuitive, signalling its importance even more! If I will take a few moments to remember what I appreciate about this friend or this co-worker, about my wife or my child, then my posture, my tone and my speech will be influenced by that thankfulness (it might even change what I choose to say!). And, let’s be honest, it’s a lot easier to have a difficult conversation with someone you know is really, truly thankful for you.

If you’re going to have conflict (and you will), then why not do it with a posture of thankfulness? It could make all the difference–the difference between health or death.

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 NIV)


Your Thursday Challenge: Practice Gratitude

There is something magical about gratitude. When we are grateful, our hearts morph and we wake to our world with altered vision. We see things we normally miss. Gratefulness changes our attitude, making us graceful when we would have been snarky and helpful when we might have shirked. Gratitude instills grace.

Today, practice gratitude with ferocious intentionality. Look for those hidden opportunities to express thanks, and go beyond just the normal platitudes.

Here are a few suggestions to prime the gratitude pump:

  • Be specific in your gratitude (For example, instead of just saying “thanks” to the server at lunch, try: “I really appreciate the helpful and cheerful way you served us today,” accompanied by a larger-than-normal tip.)
  • Make a gratitude list of 10 or 2o (or even more) things or people. (This is particularly powerful when we are having a bad day, and it can be a fun challenge with a few friends, too.)
  • Write out 2-3 thank you cards to people for whom you are grateful. (What a beautiful way to also bring delight to someone’s day!)
  • Express your gratitude to the Father for the little things you normally take for granted. (Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father, and we live gratefully under his faithful, loving care.)

Today, look for reasons to be thankful. Let’s see what gratitude can do, to our hearts and others.

I’ve been posting daily challenges this week. Here’s Monday through Wednesday.

Monday’s Challenge: To Make Someone’s Day Unexpectedly Great.

Tuesday’s Challenge: To Notice Beauty and Share It.

Wednesday’s Challenge: To See Brokenness and Respond to it. 

Your Wednesday Challenge: See and Respond to Brokenness

Following up on yesterday, beauty and brokenness are all around us. Just as we are often too busy to notice the beauty, we often overlook the pain as well. Today’s challenge is simple: Look for the brokenness and respond to it.

brokenessYou see someone hurting, a child being neglected, garbage strewn both figuratively and literally down the streets of our lives–act in response to the brokenness you see.

How can we act? I think in at least three ways:

We can pray–see the brokenness and respond by talking to the Father about what you are seeing and what he would desire in that life or situation. “Your will be done.”

Sometimes we can help. Perhaps the situation requires a definitive action, from the simple to the more involved. When we see brokenness, we must ask: How am I being called to help here?

And then there are times when we can speak. Tell that person that they are loved, remind that sister that there is hope, encourage or challenge as you are able.

There is both beauty and brokenness everywhere. Today, see the brokenness and respond, in the name of Jesus.

Your Monday Challenge: Make Today Unexpectedly Great for Someone Else

Make today unexpectedly great for someone else.delight

Your boss, your friend, your kid, your spouse–do something that surprises them with a little bit of Monday awesomeness.

Or go random–buy that stranger’s coffee, groceries . . . gas?

Wave with abandon at someone passing by.

Send flowers. Write a note.

Be the bearer of delight today.


Goodbye, fear. Hello, love.

We were born for love, yet we often shrink back in fear.

We are afraid.

Afraid of what? Rejection, disregard, intimacy, judgment, or just being known as someone who needs to be loved (as though that’s strange). Perhaps we are fearful of being used or abused (again), fearful of the discomfort that can come when someone else really needs our love, fearful of being discovered for who we really are.

Fear cripples love.

But, as the Scripture tell us, perfect love casts out fear.  Isn’t that interesting? The anti-dote to fear, which will keep us from truly loving others, is perfect love itself. God’s love, being poured into our lives, enables us to reject fear and love others.

the-more-loved-we-know-we-are-by-the-fatherThe fear that keeps us from loving others is overcome not by muscling past our fears of others and the ways we might get hurt (because we will still get hurt when we love); fear is overcome by turning towards the perfect love of the Father, and letting his love for us expel all the fear in us. The more loved we know we are by the Father, the less fearful we become in our relationships with others. We know that, no matter what happens, we are loved–no human being can alter that. And though hurt and rejection and pain is still real and difficult, it no longer determines our ability to love others–that is given to us by the Father himself, determined by his love for us.

How can we reject fear and love others? By letting God love us, soaking in the truth of his immeasurable, eternal, faithful heart, the heart in which we find our true home. Living from that place of beauty and belonging, we can love, love, love–and love some more.

Goodbye, fear. Hello, love.