Believing In Oneself vs Being Arrogant

The movie entitled The Wiz stands as one of my very favorite movies. Diana Ross and Lena Horne were two of the key actors. Over the years, I have watched all or parts of the film at least a dozen times. And perhaps the most moving part for me is when as an angle Lena Horne sings “Believe In Yourself” to Diana Ross, the woman who struggled with being successful. Every single time I watch that part of the movie, I am filled with emotion.

With tremendous majesty, the movie out brings out the profound difference between (1) a person being arrogant and (2) a person believing in herself or himself but who is not at all arrogant. The arrogant person is very much given to drawing attention to her or his accomplishments and abilities. By contrast, the non-arrogant person who believes in herself or himself will characteristically be ever so modest notwithstanding the many ways in which she or he is quite successful. And the view that I hold is that if, indeed, a person genuinely believes in herself or himself, then that individual is not at all given to being arrogant. In other words, I take arrogance to be a horrendous form of insecurity.
Now, it goes without saying that there can be occasions when a person needs to mention that she or has a given skill or wherewithal, where doing so does not at all constitute a form of arrogance. For instance, there was an instance when a person at a grocery store buying basic groceries comes up $4.50 short. I was right behind her and I simply gave her a $5 bill. She looked at me with great puzzlement. But without saying anything about my financial resources, I made it very clear to her that the gesture did not pose a financial difficulty for me. Needless to say, that was all that she needed to know. She teared-up and gave me a hug.

The preceding story strikes as being right in on point in terms of genuine goodwill. For of if a person is indeed acting out of genuine goodwill, then she or he is not at all aiming to draw attention to herself or himself. By contrast, if a person is arrogant, then simply drawing attention to the good that she or he does is very much a defining feature of that person’s behavior.
Needless to say, it is simply not possible for an individual to truly be the author her or his life if the individual does not have considerable measure of self-knowledge pertaining to the way in which the individual pertains to live. But an ever so profound and majestic truth is that a person can have such self-knowledge without being at all concerned to draw attention to that reality.
On the one hand, a a person can be none other than a most majestic author of her or his life. On the other hand, a person can be a quite insecure author of her or his life.

If, as I believe, there is a deep, deep respect in which human beings are foundational, then it stands to reason that whether or not an individual has truly been the beneficiary of majestic parental love can make a major difference in how that child turns out as an adult.
There are individuals who marvelously thrive in the absence of parental love. Frederick Douglass was such a case in point. Hellen Keller was such a case. And I have taught students for whom such a claim is true. But as a modified version of a saying goes: “Such individuals are the exception that proves the rule”.

Far more or often than not, an individual truly believes in herself or himself as an adult only if the individual has properly received majestic affirmation while growing-up.

© Laurence Thomas, 2017

About Laurence Thomas

Laurence Thomas is Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Department of Philosophy at Syracuse University. His most recent book is The Family and the Political Self and his most recent article in French is "Juifs et Noirs: Au-delà du Mal" in Trigano (ed.) Juifs et Noirs: du Mythe à la Réalité. Thomas has published numerous essays on the topic of friendship. The essay "The Character of Friendship" has appeared in volume on friendship, entitled Thinking About Friendship, edited by Damian Caluori and the essay "Friendship in the Shadow of Technology" has appeared in the anthology Moral and Moral Controversies edited by Steven Scalet and John Arthur. His most recent essay--entitled "Being Moral and Handling the Truth"--is about circumstances under which it is morally permissible to lie. Indeed, an example is given in Section IV of a lie being morally virtuous.
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