The good news is that we have a cure for movie stars. The bad news is that it kills your average snob as well.
Funny thing about unabashed self-assertion. As much as it may annoy us in others, it seems we are strangely tolerant of it. The hot-head athlete, the glossed-over star, they may tick us off, but they seldom send us through the roof.
Otherwise, how come Hollywood and professional ballers are still in business?
My theory is that we treat human arrogance leniently because we know it’s inherently limited. It’s really all just a game, and however closely we may follow that game, we never really forget it’s just play. Smoke and mirrors. A huge masked ball. Because people get older, or they get dealt to a loser team, they play a stupid role, they get busted with marijuana, or land in a drunken fight… We know it’s only a matter of time until so-and-so’s personal luster wears thin.
There is, however, another reason for our clemency in the face of ego. We each have our own secret aspirations. You see, it would be foolish of me to deride Allen Iverson’s brashness when I hope to send my own NBA planet into orbit next week. Likewise J-Lo and the girl next door. We’re not dumb. Most of us won’t call our competition’s true weakness out too loudly, because that would sabotage our personal plan of attack.
So when I see Jones living like he’s a god, I may snicker, but I probably won’t really call him out. I’m more likely to sneer at his passé style than truly hit him where it hurts. (Hey Jones, you’re gonna die and worms’ll eat ya.) Why my reticence?
Because I know that, at some convenient point in the near future, I’m launching a face campaign of my own. We would all, when it comes down to it, prefer to have the face that launched a thousand ships—better yet, a thousand ESPY previews or People covers. Most of us think we’ve been robbed: If the world had 20/20 vision, it would be beating a path to my door.
The way I see it, the most direct way to demolish stuck-on-myselfness is the one route most of us will never take. In other words, only a really humble person could trash a truly conceited man. Because I must include myself in the remedy.
Our desire for unwarranted stardom, our secret I-wish-that-was-me-ness, prevents us from seeing arrogance with X-ray vision—seeing it as it is: A walking bag of bones draped in too-tight glittery clothing. Laughable, really. But we can’t afford to laugh too uproariously, because the joke is also on us.
I’ll sooner tolerate Jones’ insufferable arrogance—so long as it is mildly entertaining—than stifle my own. This painfully awkward phenomenon is what Jesus hinted at, I think, when he said,
I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? (John 5:43-44 ESV)
Christ pointed up our fundamental disconnect where glory is concerned. We're ready to tolerate almost anyone's self-assertion as long as it means they'll wink at our pretensions in due course. But bring deity, true glory, into the picture, and our homemade grandeur starts looking shabby. Pride screams out and then starts developing rigor mortis. The game's not being played by the house rules anymore and we don't like it.
So while it hurts me to say this, I've got to choke it out. After consideration, this “human glory” thing is for the birds, is what I’m thinking.