On April 4th 2023, I went to a Jehovah’s Witness Memorial Service for Jesus Christ and something unexpected happened. I suffered some kind of emotional or mental breakdown and had to leave before it ended. I felt wretched and rotten, guilty and unworthy. And ironically, I believe it all stemmed from this lifelong criticism of being called “Arrogant.”
Modesty is not one of my strong points. I get it. It’s kinda like how I’ve been told I’m too “Judgmental”. However, with that, I am truly judgmental. I embrace it. I can accept and defend it.
But Arrogance…How can I justify that? The Bible’s constantly talking about the virtues of being meek and humble. It warns about pride and haughtiness. Jesus himself said that “the greatest among you shall be your servant.” And that whoever humbles himself like a child shall be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
So, if they are correct in their assessment…what do I do? How do I change? Do I even want to change?
Here’s what I’m going to do. First, I’m going to explain what happened that night during the Memorial Service. Then, I’m gonna dive deep into why I’m clearly so insufferably arrogant.
On April 4th 2023 (Nisan 14), the Jehovah Witnesses held their annual Memorial Service in celebration of the Lord’s Passover Meal. It was to honor Christ’s sacrificial death for all believers. I’m not a Jehovah’s Witness. But my parents are. Every year, since I was eleven, they took me and my brothers to this annual event and as an adult, I still believe in honoring that tradition.
Usually when I attend the Memorial Service, I go with someone. Last year, I went with my parents. The years before, I went with a local Jehovah’s Witness family. This year, with my newfound confidence and improving social skills, I decided to go by myself. I trusted that the JWs would be down to earth and welcoming. That’s exactly what happened.
I’ve never been to this particular Kingdom Hall (Jehovah’s Witnesses place of meeting), but every Brother (church member) I locked eyes with shook hands and introduced themselves with cheerful repose. I must have said “My name is Rock!” at least 14 times in the span of 3 minutes. It was cool. I was doing good.
As the service kicked off, I smiled with nostalgia. The place was packed. There were families and some solo visitors like myself. Everyone seemed good and decent and kind. True sheep, members of Christ’s flock. As the Speaker from Bethel gave his sermon, conveying the significance of Christ’s death and how he gave up his perfect life for us…dark thoughts began to sink in.
I’m thinking about why we have sin in the first place. Satan. Adam. Because of them everyone I love will die. And because of Satan’s ongoing influence in this wicked world, a lot of my peers, co-workers, and loved ones have given into that influence to reject Christ…which is to reject life.
As we read the Scriptures about Jesus’s death, being nailed to a cross and strung up to suffer, I’m suddenly thinking about my cousin who was so recently murdered. The loss is still fresh. The hate and rage are still there. I’ve been able to ignore it for a while, but I haven’t forgiven. The need for vengeance is strong. It’s always strong.
That hate and rage…I know it sounds cliché. But the truth is, deep down I’ve always relished it. Compliments don’t come like the sunrise and their effects are ephemeral. But the injustices I see on a day-to-day basis lights a fire like you wouldn’t believe. Each memory is like a scoop of coal in the boiler. Every time I hear or read about the innocent’s pain and suffering, civilians caught in the crossfire, some lunatic going on a rampage and killing kids who had nothing to do with whatever nonsense they got going on in their lives…
I use it. It’s there. This indignation has always been a consistent source of motivation. It’s the fuel that keeps me running at 100mph even when I’ve lost hope and the thoughts of pointlessness take hold.
Even so, I can’t come into the Kingdom filled with such animosity, can I? And more than anything, a question that’s preys on my mind ever since my cousin’s murder is whether or not my hatred for Satan is greater than my love for God.
Is that understandable? Will God accept that? Could it be that my hatred towards Satan and sin really is “righteous indignation”?
All I know is that I’m sitting there…Seething, barely containing myself in the middle of the service as the Brothers come to each aisle and pass platters of the unleavened bread, representing Christ’s Body. Then they passed glasses of wine representing Christ’s blood and the New Covenant. (1 Corinthians 11:17-34)
As the Brothers finished going through the aisles, there was silence for about three minutes. And in that moment of reflection, my thoughts just got worse. I kept thinking, “I don’t belong here. I am a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I am corrupt. My thoughts are violent. I am dangerous to them.” So arrogant. So self-centered.
I should’ve felt joy that Christ conquered death through resurrection, but it enraged me that he had to go through so much pain and suffering and die in the first place.
Humans…it’s hard to love them. I thought I did. But I’m failing at the 2nd Greatest Commandment. I know we’re all flawed. I know we fall short. But in that moment, I felt like I was surrounded by those destined for heaven while I deserved nothing short of the deepest pits of hell. Maybe, all this time, I was just a bad guy pretending to be good.
As all rose to begin the closing song…I tried…God knows I tried to make it through the song but I couldn’t. As soon as it was over, I’d have to face this congested hall of love and fellowship. I didn’t have the strength to put on a performance.
So, I picked up my Bible and made my way for the exit. My vision was blurry. My eyes were glossed with tears. People were everywhere in my peripheral, but I could see the clear floor and followed the path to the front doors.
Two older white men, Brothers of the Congregation followed me out. It was endearing but by then, I was a mess, crying uncontrollably as if I was back at my cousin’s funeral. Pathetic.
“Hey brother, are you alright?” One said.
“Yeah, I’m okay. It was a good speech. You guys are good people.” I said, averting my eyes.
The other chimed in with, “Hey, I was hoping to speak with you because you asked some good questions about Good Friday. Why don’t you stick around and we can speak after.”
“I don’t want people to see my like this.” I chuckled.
“Here. Let me give you my card. Please, feel free to reach out to me anytime. I’d be happy to talk to you.” said the first one.
I took his card and thanked them so much. Honestly, God bless them. They were really nice.
The whole 5-minute drive home, I just kept crying, angry that I was crying. I kept saying out loud, “Sorry. I am so sorry. Please forgive me.” Over and over again, as if Jesus was in the backseat
Got home and prayed. I thanked God for the day and asked for guidance and understanding. Mind you, most of what I’ve typed up to this point…I’m giving you my thoughts in hindsight. But in the moment, I really didn’t understand what was going on. I knew I felt guilty and unworthy. But why?
I want you to know that, since then, I’ve sought counsel from plenty of Christians including my older brother. I’m still a work in progress. I still haven’t overcome the loss of my cousin. I don’t have all the answers about what happened that night, but there’s one thing I’m about to settle once and for all.
That night, I felt unworthy of being amongst this congregation where I thought everyone was better than me. I felt like I didn’t measure up. Does that sound like an arrogant man to you?
Here’s what I think is going on…It’s essentially what Jesus Christ said in John 15. “18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
Just like the world thinks it’s good to have sex before you get married while the Bible explains that it’s actually bad and sexually immoral I think this world has a twisted habit of labeling something by its own standard of right and wrong, not God’s standard.
In Matthew Chapter 5, Jesus Christ gives one of his most beautiful sermons. One of the Beatitudes is, “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the Earth.” This blog posits an amazing account of what it means to be Humble and exude Humility by God’s standards. They write:
Humility is an essential characteristic for followers of Christ. The Bible defines humility as “the fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 22:4). Its etymological root is in the Latin word “humus” meaning “of the earth.” To be humble is to be face down in the dirt, submitting to the authority of another, without personal pride. This is the Christian’s proper position before the Lord.
When it comes to submitting myself to Christ’s teachings and the Word of God…I do NOT believe I am arrogant. Instead, I hereby accuse the world of being arrogant for thinking they don’t need God in their lives, for thinking they know better than God, and for thinking that all who put their trust in God are fools, while they themselves are actually the smart and successful ones. That is arrogance.
Back in 2020, I published ten essays called the “Top 10 Ways the Bible Changed My Life.” One of the posts details how reading the “Bible Changed My Priorities”. Feel free to check it out, it’s one of my favorites.
In it, I explain how it took two years to really shed off my old self and submit myself to Christ. This was NOT easy. We’re talking about changing directions, changing goals that I invested years of my life to pursue. This requires faith and a humble heart.
It’s quite similar to that of Abraham who was told to uproot his life and venture to a land not known to him. Abraham put his trust in God and did as God instructed. Likewise, I put my trust in God and gradually let go of my worldly ambitions, the money, fame, and the pedestalizing of women, submitting myself to the idea that God knows what’s best for me.
So, when people say, “Oh, you’re just a misogynist for wanting a wife who believes in submitting to her husband”...maybe now, you’ll understand why I see those people as individuals who have not yet put their faith God’s words the way I have (Ephesians 5), thus it MAKES SENSE why I’d take a pass on those ladies, why I’d see them as not yet ready for my commitment. We are not yet equally yoked. (2 Corinth 6:14) And because of that, I am arrogant.
Even other Christians who only know bits and pieces of the Bible, they might see me as arrogant. Because I’m not tolerant and accepting the way the world wants me to be. I don’t join PRIDE parades, I don’t engage in the hook-up culture, and you won’t catch me embracing cultures that promote the breakdown of families through willful ignorance and its rejection of Christ.
I’m not perfect. As you read, I clearly have problems I still need to work on. But whatever darkness I may have in my heart, my desire to do what’s good in God’s eyes seems to be stronger. It’s an honor. I know God’s always watching. The multitude of angels are watching. And every time I choose God over the world, I think they smile.
An example of what I mean is, …it was recently implied that I might be one of the “have nots” because women didn’t/don’t choose me. I replied with, “Are you sure they didn’t choose me? Or am I not choosing them?” God knows I want to have a wife and children, but I believe in doing it God’s way by getting married first.
I’ve had PLENTY of opportunities to land the girl of my dreams if only I had given into the temptation of sex. I’ve slept in beds with past girlfriends. I’ve had intimate moments where things were heating up, but before it got too far, by the grace of God I resisted every time to remain a Virgin until marriage. That is conviction and I clearly do not break easy.
When the world sees things like that, it’s understandable for them to look at me and say, “Who does he think he is? Does he think he’s all that? He thinks he’s too good to do as we do? To join our customs? Does he think he’s better than us?”
Think about Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when the rest of the assembly was bowing down to the King of Babylon’s image, but they refused to (Daniel Chapter 3). Think about Mordecai who refused to pay homage to Haman who plotted against the Jews (Esther 3). Think of the young shepherd boy David who dared to accept Goliath’s challenge at the risk of his own life.
Can you imagine the people around them? You don’t think the Philistines or his own brothers looked at young David and thought, “who does this arrogant boy think he is? Why does he think he’ll succeed against Goliath when so many have failed.”
Consider John the Baptist who dared to speak out against King Herod for marrying his brother’s wife. Can you imagine what they might have been saying about him? “That’s the king! You’re just some wanna be prophet coming out of the wilderness. Who do you think you are?”
Now, I’m not gonna sit here and tell you that every time I was called arrogant, it was because I was choosing God over the world. But the most recent criticisms, leading up to the night of the Memorial…it did stem from how I choose to live my life, how I view my secular peers, and my selective (cautious) attitude towards marriage.
The woman who called me Arrogant is an older woman who’s known me since I was 23. She knows a lot about me because I’ve confided in her. She’s like a Second Mother to me and I really do value her opinion. For her to say things like “You’re arrogant” or “You want a woman who’s inferior to you”…I really did take them to heart and considered whether or not she’s correct.
The truth is, I really do think I’m the smartest person in the room sometimes. People say I shouldn’t, but I don’t think they understand what I mean. In my 20s, I heard the saying, “If you feel like you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room.”
The logic being, you should surround yourself with people who are better than you because those are the people you’ll want to learn from to help you grow.
To this day, I still kinda live by that philosophy. Everyone I hang around is someone who has something, some quality or aspect that I want to improve on. OR, it’s someone who clearly wants to learn from me.
That being said, sometimes, I end up with peers who espouse worldviews and preach indulgences that go against the Bible. In those moments, part of me can’t help but feel like I am better than these people. Not superior, but better off. Like one who heeded the warnings and left Pompeii before Vesuvius erupted.
I don’t dwell on it. I don’t celebrate it. And I personally don’t see it as arrogance on my part…because even though I may feel like I’m better off in the long run…for now, I still have to endure this world. It is incredibly lonely when you live a life where it feels like you’re the only one playing by the rules. You see people “having fun” and doing things that you know you could do, if you only abandoned God’s word.
That’s not cool. It’s a rotten thing to have go through alone, which is why it’s good to have a church or congregation to lend you support. But for the longest time, I didn’t have that. It was just me. You want to smile and be happy for your peers, for your brothers, but when you know they’re not living by God’s teaching and yet they seem to prosper, you’re the one who feels foolish. Like you’re the idiot who’s missing out for nothing.
It’s not easy to keep your chin up and keep your eyes on the Kingdom of Heaven while having to endure all that, social media, commercials, TV, movies, magazines, music…it’s everywhere! This world is designed for the wicked to prosper as Christ said in John 15.
I try to have compassion. But very often, their unfortunate situations in life are the result of their own choices, choices…that were not smart.
Hence, it is my belief that all Christians who put their faith in Christ are the smartest people alive. If that makes me arrogant…I’m sorry. I’ll try not to show it. I’ll still treat everyone with love and respect. But when it comes to those who willfully reject Christ’s teachings, I confess…it’s almost like an involuntary muscle to see that what they’re doing is stupid.
I know people want to slight me for that, but when you read the Bible every day…It’s kind of like martial arts. If you practice a thousand punches a day, your muscles are going to be fine-tuned and conditioned to strike with proper technique without having to think, hesitate, or worry about “what you should do” if you’re ever in a real fight. You’ve trained for this.
In the same way, when you read the Bible every day, applying the Bible teachings to your life, you’re conditioning yourself to develop a stronger sense of morality according to God’s standards. You immediately know when something’s wrong because you’ve read over and over again how God feels about things like sexual immorality, theft, murder, or apostasy.
Regardless of the excuses, regardless of the reasons why, by mere observation you KNOW. Doesn’t mean they’re bad people overall, but the actions are bad.
Perhaps that’s why, so many dating coaches tell people to leave their Christianity at the door when it comes to dating. I get it. There is a bit of pressure when you’re dealing with someone who lives with a code of morality. If you have a heart set on “doing whatever you want as long as it makes you happy,” you’re probably going to be frustrated with a man who denies himself for the sake of Christ. (Matt 16:24-26)
Alright…that’s all I have on the Bible. There is one other thing I want to explain before I close it out. Because even though I’m a committed Christian now, I haven’t always been. And even back before I studied the Bible, I was still called arrogant by my peers. I’d like to explain that as well. Perhaps if people understood, they wouldn’t be so quick to see it as necessarily a bad thing.
When I was kid, I had a talent for singing. I memorized melodies, hummed the tunes, and I even performed for neighbors who stopped over. I loved entertaining people. I think I may have been inspired by Michael Jackson being a child star, but I truly believed I was destined for greatness. That is…if everyone else around me, believed in me.
When I was in 4th grade, I wanted to enter my school’s talent show. My mother wouldn’t let me. She was afraid of my feelings getting hurt. Not gonna lie, that kinda crushed me. Was she saying I can’t sing? Did I lack the talent? Why didn’t she want to help me get better?
I also had a talent for acting and martial arts. I’d memorize scenes and act them out to entertain my brothers. When it comes to martial arts, I used to get bullied before 2nd grade by both boys and girls. But after watching the Street Fighter video games, I was able to memorize the moves and practice them in my backyard. I was GOOD AT IT!
Again…my parents shut me down. My mom threw away my video games because she thought it was too violent.
In Georgia, I grew up a big kid, always one of the biggest in my classroom. So naturally, I wanted to play football. My mom and step-dad were against it. They were afraid of me getting hurt. And to add insult to injury, they forced me to go and attend my high school football games just to do something out of the house.
Have you detected a pattern? TV shows like Family Matters and Fresh Prince were all fantasies. In those shows, you see family and friends encouraging and supporting the character’s endeavors, instilling confidence in them by complimenting them, rooting, and cheering them on. I didn’t have that.
If no one cheers you on, if there’s no one there to root for you or instill you with confidence…is a child not allowed to believe in himself? I didn’t even realize this until I was 25. When I was pursuing my Colombian Paramour, I told her, “You know what. I noticed you haven’t said a kind word to me. You’ve never complimented or praised me for anything I’ve done yet.”
She said, “Well, you’re always complimenting yourself, so there’s no need for me to do it.”
And as much as that stung…she was right. It just sucks that she never understood why. Back then, if you talked to me and asked me about what I had going on…chances are, I’d tell you that I’m working on a novel. That I finished a short story. That I think it’s really great and I can’t wait to publish them.
It does sound like I’m bragging, but that’s only because it was unusual to most of my peers. If you asked them about their weekends, they could tell you that they went clubbing and dancing or took the boat out. It wouldn’t sound like bragging because most of them were doing it. But for me to say something like, I got a title copyrighted by the Library of Congress… “There goes Rock, bragging about his accomplishments again.”
Ladies and Gentlemen…in my twenties, I dedicated my life to be a published author. I had to have a supreme level of confidence for several reasons.
- Being an author is a solitary occupation unless you’re blessed with a spouse or partner who helps you. It takes a strong belief in yourself that what you’re doing is worth it.
- Success doesn’t happen overnight. Every day that you’re churning out pages, you’re only chipping away at a project that may not be completed for years. Your confidence is what keeps you banking on the idea that you will succeed.
- It’s not a Spectator’s sport. Unless you tell someone, no one but God knows how hard you’re working. Unless you promote your work, no one would ever know what you’ve done. Thus, there won’t be a lot of people cheering you on. There’s no one to impress. Both of which can motivate you to keep working hard.
None of this was easy. But I did it. So, it makes sense that my peers would call me arrogant because I had the audacity to believe that one day my hard work would pay off.
By the time I turned 30, I got to the point where I stopped telling people that I’m a writer. I didn’t even realize until I was about 32, when I visited my dad. He was introducing me to members of his church and I was like,
“I work for a marketing research company in Tampa.”
My dad said, “And?”
“And I work part time at a law firm.”
Again, my dad said, “And?!”
I stared puzzled for a moment…then I chuckled and said, “And I’m an author. I write books, short stories, and essay.”
Man, that really made me smile, almost wistfully. Even now, just thinking about it…I can’t help but thank God for such a strong spirit in a world where compliments and encouragement, it’s not only scarce for people like me…but its effects are ephemeral. I wish I could latch on to the many compliments and words of encouragement I have received over the years and just carry that wave of momentum forever.
But I think it’s kind of the reason why we read the Bible every day. I know what’s in it. But it’s good to constantly be reminded of God’s love, generosity, his power and Christ’s loving example of forgiveness. Humans are forgetful creatures.
Anyways…I hope I’ve made my case. Thank you for reading and God bless!
Be kind to yourself, my friend! You never come across as arrogant in your posts, for what that is worth. You’ve been through a major trauma and some mishaps are to be expected. Be blessed.
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Thanks man, I appreciate it. How are you coming along?
Slow going here. Thanks for asking. Cancer is in remission, which is great, but the treatment has nuked a lot of my blood levels so I’m slowly recovering from that. And one side effect begets another — treatment resulted in a blood clot, and the medicine caused all sorts of depression and anxiety issues, which are unusual for me.
Damn, man. Well, I’m glad it’s in remission. If there’s anything I can do to cheer ya up, let me know. My mom had to have knee replacement surgery and she’s…it sounds like her complications are similar when it comes to the treatments and unstable blood pressure. Sounds like the doctors are experimenting with telling her when to get on or off her blood thinners, so…that’s kind of nerve racking. I plan to see her in August.
(former) Small children are humble in the sense that they can accept that Isaiah 7 is really a prophecy of Christ and not overthink it. (latter) They are not humble in the sense of not being judgemental. Kids will walk up to a fat person and straight up say “Hey lady, did you know you’re fat?” So clearly when Jesus said be humble like a little child he had the former and NOT the latter in mind. I added former and latter markers for anyone with reading comprehension problems, and I say that totally humbly, just like a child would say it.