Love is not Boastful or Arrogant
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant… 1 Corinthians 13:4a,b,c
Two of the characteristics Paul lists as representing what love is NOT are boastful and arrogant. I will address them together because they are similar traits. In general, one boasts out of one’s arrogance. Although I did not consciously plan it this way, what better week to consider boastfulness and arrogance than the week of the start of the presidential primaries in the United States! Obviously, boasting and arrogance are not the exclusive domain of either political party, nor of a specific gender, age group, or ethnicity – all of the candidates display these traits to a troubling extent, at least it is troubling to me.
As a country, we want leaders who are accomplished and confident. Winning elections is about convincing voters that one’s experience is evidence of their ability to do the job well, as well as selling one’s vision of a better future. Educating an audience about one’s accomplishments can easily deteriorate into boastful bluster, however, particularly when one is insecure about those accomplishments, or when others are questioning those accomplishments. In a similar way, our attempts to display confidence can very quickly devolve into a show of blatant arrogance. There is a thin line between confidence and arrogance, and many – including the non-candidates among us – find ourselves crossing back and forth with regularity.
Yet, I digress. This series of Life Notes is about love, not politics. Even so, we live in a politicized world. What would a candidate who based his or her campaign on love look like? I am not referring to love of country, as in patriotism, but a genuine love of humankind – all of humankind regardless of sexual orientation, race, gender, age, ethnicity, socio-economic status, religion – everyone! I am talking about a Jesus-kind-of-love. Such a candidate would reach out to the poor, the sick, the lost, the lonely, and the sinners. Of course, Jesus also spent time with tax-collectors – likely the wealthy of the day – but never to the exclusion of the excluded. Our candidate of love would be patient and kind, even to and especially with his or her attackers. Would such a candidate have a chance of winning a national election? Sadly, I fear not.
Paul’s writings about love make it obvious that becoming more loving requires becoming more vulnerable. A loving person will not brag about their own accomplishments because they have no need or desire to make themselves appear superior. Loving people are humble and recognize everyone has strengths and weaknesses. We are only as strong as the ties binding us together. Love requires mutual vulnerability, but vulnerability does not win elections. It does win hearts, however, while boasting and arrogance isolate them.
Let us make 2016 the year of love, as love was meant to be.