Arrogance and Learning

Arrogance. Even the word kind of makes me cringe, but I have been spending a lot of time thinking about it lately.

What I am realising is how much arrogance shuts us off to learning, and clearly that is not a great thing, especially when my whole personal and professional life revolves around learning.

One of my husband’s main themes of teaching is that reducing arrogance is the key to growth. In fact in Islam it is said that nobody with a grain of arrogance in their heart will go to heaven. That really freaked me out. I always thought of arrogant people as being boastful and acting like they are better than everyone else. Because I always thought I was worse than everyone else it must meant I wasn’t arrogant – right? How wrong could I be? Arrogance is actually a reaction to low self esteem, where we close ourselves off to protect and hide our inadequacies. They become like a dirty secret that we can’t bear to expose. The more we try to deny our inadequacies to make ourselves feel better about ourselves, the more arrogant we become. The result is that we can’t deal with criticism, we pretend to be better than we are, and we don’t want to learn.

The other day, after weeks of working on this idea of arrogance in myself, I was making chai for our guests, as I do a LOT, and one of my friends came into the kitchen. While chatting, I said something about not really liking chai… that I like Aussie tea bags. She said “Oh that’s why you don’t make good chai then”. I was flabbergasted. My arrogance rose up and nearly exploded out of me…HOW DARE SHE SAY I DIDN’T MAKE GOOD CHAI!! I HAVE MADE LITERALLY THOUSANDS OF CUPS OF CHAI IN THE LAST FEW YEARS AND NOBODY HAS EVER TOLD ME MY CHAI WAS BAD!! I went on and on until I suddenly remembered that I had been working so hard on my arrogance, and here at my first test, I had failed big-time. Instead of taking it as a valid criticism, I immediately took it personally and blocked myself to all learning. I was completely defensive.

The funny thing is that here in Pakistan, so many people are outrageously open about their inadequacies. This is totally confronting for me. I think in Australia we tend to build our strengths and play down our weaknesses, but here it is the opposite. They draw out their weaknesses, evaluate them, play with them and many people actually work on them.

So my friend gave me a really important learning experience and I am extremely grateful to her.

So how does all this relate to homeschooling you ask?

Unfortunately the truth is that my kids also have my arrogance, and that is seriously scary. They hide their art and writing from me in case I criticise it, they are not as open about learning as I would have hoped, they hate anyone to tell them they are wrong and they don’t like to listen to any kind of advice.

Just. Like. Me.

The difference is that I didn’t have someone to tell me this was wrong (or if they did, I didn’t listen). My kids have their father, and they have a chance to work on it from a young age.

I am determined that if they learning nothing else in their young years, it should be to constantly be vigilant about arrogance.

Here are my four remedies for arrogance:

  1. Be completely open about your weaknesses
  2. Accept all criticism as a precious chance to grow
  3. Listen to everyone like you are a child, in complete openness and awe and without judgement
  4. Constantly seek learning






4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. safiyahalishah
    Oct 06, 2012 @ 16:43:22

    How do we stop ourselves from being arrogant?

    Admit it.

    I am stupid.

    Admit it.

    I am an idiot.

    Admit it.

    I know nothing.

    ADMIT IT!!


    Awesome post Mumma ^.^.


  2. amemz
    Oct 07, 2012 @ 17:30:57

    arrogance is a reaction to self esteem! i absolutely agree. great writing!


  3. Cath C.
    Oct 08, 2012 @ 13:44:41

    A really thought provoking post. Many thanks.


  4. Mandi
    Jan 31, 2014 @ 07:18:26

    Definitely food for thought.
    It’s a really tricky balancing act trying to maintain (and encourage in our kids) healthy self-esteem and confidence without spilling over into arrogance. I constantly struggle with it. I think the key – as you say – is that arrogance closes us off from the possibility that we can learn from others, or improve what we do (no matter how well we do it. That’s why an open mind and not making snap judgements of others is so important – you never know where you might learn you next big life lesson.


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