The arrogance of man will be brought low and human pride humbled; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day, Isaiah 2:17

 I used to joke that when I was 21, I thought I knew everything. When I was 31, I was sure I knew everything. But then at 41,  I realized how little I really knew at those earlier ages. Now that I am approaching 75, I can now see that I had a lot to learn even at 41.

Fortunately, I learned humility when I discovered I was not the brightest guy in the room.  There were others far smarter than me. God tends to humble the proud.

In a way, I was no different from today’s millennial. They might not know everything, but they think they do because it is on their hand-held digital devices.  But their knowledge often comes with a not so welcome guest: arrogance.

So, what is arrogance? It is defined as “attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions.” There were probably times in my life when I was arrogant but didn’t realize it.  Humility was not my strong suit when I was young and naive.

In a recent MentorLink Institute session on Skype with pastors around the world, one of the participants came up with a mathematical definition. He said “Anger + Pride = Arrogance.”

An example is the popular “kiss off letter” by college students to their parents. It notifies parents that they reject everything taught them because they are learning something different in college.

The letter ends with “PS: Please continue to send money.”  I am not making this up.

The attitude of superiority and entitlement affects both millennials and Generation Z.  Tim Elmore posits that one of the reasons for the rise of arrogance is due to an overload of information at their fingertips. It is also a rewarded behavior on social media. People who are assertive (and arrogant) appear to get ahead in life.

Research cited in Psychology Today is illuminating. A German study showed that “arrogant students (and arrogant people in general) need to feel dominant and superior”.

An extreme version of arrogance is the narcissist in our culture. They comprise about 30% of the younger population according to a recent study.  What is scary about that statistic is that it has doubled in the last decade, while the opposite trait, empathy, has declined by 40%.

Narcissism includes self-absorption,  egocentrism, and a general overestimation of ones’ importance leading to a sense of entitlement and a disregard for others.

Narcissists are never wrong. Ever.  Just ask them. “People are more narcissistic when they’re young: ‘It’s a self-absorbed stage of life’” according to research by a professor at Emory University.

Research shows that young people who face adversity early in life develop a “healthy sense of their limitations” so that it tends to diminish their narcissism later in life. In other words, people grow up by facing trials and failures, just like I did.

Many of the next generation have had bad parenting.  One parenting style has been described as the lawn mower parent,  replacing the helicopter parent who hovers over their children. This parenting style is one that wants to mow down any adversity that a child might experience in life.  Sadly, that means they don’t get to grow up normally.

Probably the best example of lawn mower parents is the recent  revelation  that wealthy parents cheated and bribed to get their children into prestigious universities over the last decade. Now the parents (and their undeserving children) will face the consequences, criminal and otherwise.

One actress and her husband managed to convince a University that their daughters were being recruited for crew, when in fact neither of them had ever rowed before.

Tim Elmore offers three suggestions on how to deal with students who think they know everything (even when they don’t). One of them is worth repeating here. He suggests putting the student into a context where they have to use their knowledge.

Link them with a non-profit that needs help or take them to places where they can see that their opinions don’t actually work in reality. Basically, you need to get them to broaden their perspective.

Colleges are now complicit in developing a student body to think only one way. Recently, a professor was forced to take a leave of absence at NYU.  He dared to take on the PC culture which mandated that he only think (and teach) one way. So much for academic freedom.

The challenge here is to recognize arrogance for what it is and what it is doing to the next generation. As noted, it has increased exponentially in an environment where the next generation has been protected from failure and adversity. They haven’t learned valuable hard lessons of the real world.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  A mentor who has been bruised by life along the way is in a position to walk beside the next generation and give them insights and perspectives that they haven’t experienced.


Tim Elmore:  Arrogance: What to do When Your Students Know Everything.

What Makes the Arrogant so ArrogantPsychology Today

Narcissists are Everywhere   Washington Post (2106)

Narcissism is Alive and Well in America Psychology Today

Lawn Mower Parents are the New Helicopter Parents   

Here’s What happened when I challenged the PC culture at NYU   Washington Post

FBI Sting of College Admission Cheating MSN

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