A chapter from the book that I am working on (yes, that project is still on!) deals with various emotions and levels of consciousness. And under the chapter titled "The obstacles to happiness" is a section on Arrogance.
Arrogance has many synonyms - haughtiness, conceit, hubris, self-importance, egotism, sense of superiority; pomposity, high-handedness, swagger, boasting, bumptiousness, bluster, condescension, disdain, contempt, imperiousness; pride, vanity, immodesty; loftiness, lordliness, snobbishness, snobbery, superciliousness, smugness; pretension, pretentiousness, affectation; scorn, mocking, sneering, scoffing; presumption, insolence, big-headedness, etc.
While Pride is normally considered a synonym for Arrogance, it is probably different. “Pride” which could be the happiness that comes from achievement – and feeling good about oneself, and yet thinking well of others. Arrogance is pride, combined with thinking less than, or ill of others. When one feels happy with their achievement and also thinks less of others, then it is not useful.
I learnt this a while ago, and aim to practice this in my living: "Communication is the result that it gets!" So, if anyone feels that I was being arrogant or proud, then that was certainly the truth as far as they are concerned. And it is up to me, to ensure that behave in a responsible, respectful manner henceforth.
Many a time, many people think therefore that one should always be self-deprecative which they consider the opposite of arrogance and hence that is practiced as thinking less of oneself. Yes, it certainly is true that it's not useful to think less of others, whilst thinking highly of oneself. Similarly, it is also not useful to think less of oneself. Like they say, charity begins at home. So, the ideal approach would be to think well of oneself AND of others. (More on this can be found in another article: Always be respectful - of self and others
And what prompted this thought about Arrogance, Pride and the like? Well, there as an incident involving a group of motorcyclists in Bangalore. A motorcyclist had knocked over and caused a fatal accident for a pedestrian. What followed was mindless and inexplicable at first - a mob gathered and started assaulting all bikers in the vicinity. A group of motorcyclists who had nothing to do with the incident were assaulted, their bikes vandalised and damaged. The key aspect was that all the motorcyclists who were assaulted were the ones riding "big" bikes and who were very distinguishable given all the riding gear and the paraphernalia associated with biking that they had to show for it.
To some, this might seem like mob mentality - and when the layers of reasons are peeled, a completely different understanding might dawn. The fact is that the crowd or mob assaulted only those riding big bikes, and those who were clearly the "leisure motorcyclists." And all of the bikes were expensive bikes beyond the reach of most in India. And again, this might be dismissed as the angry reaction of the "have-nots" towards the "haves" and given a chance, taking out their anger on them. Whilst there might be some truth in this the real reasons are possibly different.
Being a motorcyclist myself, I have ridden a fair bit, although not as much as some others. Some traits that are noticed in a small minority of those riding the big bikes is the aspect of "arrogance" rather than pride. For example, when a lay person who sees a big bike they have not seen before, comes over and asks some questions out of curiosity, the responses are full of arrogance, and condescension. For example, some of the common questions that have been asked of me are:
What price is the bike?
What is the engine capacity?
What is the top speed?
What is the fuel consumption?
What fuel does the bike use?
On my part, I have been very respectful and responded with kindness to all of these questions. I aim to ensure that none feels less about themselves as a result of my responses.
However, I also know of many instances where the responses have been curt, cutting, sarcastic and plainly put condescending and arrogant. While the persons responding so might think that they are never going to meet that person again, the truth is that such an attitude is felt by the others.
Mary Angelou said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." And people who receive such sarcastic, haughty responses, are not going to feel good. And this is communicated in their behaviour and how they speak about such people in their community. And as is known, this is the beginning of a stereotyping of a group. And when an incident occurs, the rage is against the stereotype that exists in the minds, rather than the persons in question. This is true in all kind of mob violence.
So, what is the point that is aimed at being communicated here? That one must always be proud of their achievements and think well of themselves. And while they practice that, it is also important to think well of and respect others. And that simply put is the difference between Pride and Arrogance. It is ok to be proud of one's achievements, and never to be arrogant because of them! A repeat of Lao Tzu's words are probably relevant to end this article with:
Lao Tzu’s Tao Teh Ching – Chapter Sixty-Eight
A good warrior is never violent.
A good fighter is never offensive.
A great victor defeats his opponent, but not by challenging him.
A great commander is humble.
This is called the power of non-contention.
This is also called making use of the effort of others.
To follow this is to follow the pattern of the subtle nature of the universe.”