Friday, June 7, 2013

Back Then, When I Was Older

Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now. --Bob Dylan

After my last post, Simply Irresistible, a buddy of mine asked me about Youthful Arrogance (YA) and whether or not it was a form of narcissism. After our conversation I thought back to my own youth (particularly when I was in my 20s) and how I sometimes still cringe over the memory of some of the things I said and did. Of course, back then, I saw myself as a Righteous Crusader for whatever cause I was presently advocating, and, what I see now as character deficiencies, I saw then as attributes.

Consider the Spiritual Malady of YA:

Impatient Idealism: When you see a young adult who frowns a lot you are usually seeing the face of youthful arrogance. Lots of tsk, tsk, tsking of most everyone and everything that does not live up to The Ideal. Now. Instant Gratification is the motto. They want change, today, whether in others, in their churches, in the government, or at the office. This is why most revolutionary movements prey on young people. Impatient Idealists with a mission that has to be realized now, “or we start throwing bombs and bricks.”

Invincible and (Almost) Immortal: While Impatient Idealism distorts time by demanding Rome be built in a day, the Highlander Clan, being Immortals, have all the time in the world and yawn at the foolish risks they take. Furthermore, crumbling relationships? Not to worry, I’ll get around to it. Not developing a skill or knowledge base to advance a career: plenty of time. What about daily expressions or demonstrations of love to those around you: Yeah, maybe tomorrow. Doing today what should be done today because you aren’t promised tomorrow never occurs to them. And, o yeah, I can jump off that cliff and walk away: just watch this!

Opinionated to the Nth Degree: It’s all Black or White, Right or Wrong, and they aren’t seeing through any dark glass, St Paul to the contrary. They are not only correct in all that they assert, but they are overbearing in all their rightness. And if per chance they stumble upon facts that prove them wrong, they won’t acknowledge this, but merely change their story, saying it is what they always had believed. And they have actually convinced themselves that this is true. 

No Need for Others: Not that they don’t have friends, but they hold a belief that they can do this, make it through that, and solve those challenges over there, all on their own. And maybe so in some situations, but it would be far easier if they reached out for help.

Failure to Acknowledge and Accept Limitations: They can out shoot Josey Wales, out fly Maverick, out box Rocky, and out think Inspector Callahan—the Detective who famously and wisely noted, “A man has GOT to know his limitations.”

There is an old Arabian proverb that says, “Arrogance diminishes wisdom.” So, wisdom begins with taking on humility. I am not referring to self-hatred or to denying your strengths and talents. Humility embraces all of my reality: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

We need noble Ideals: Idealism is arrogant.

We need to seek change and improvement in our worlds: demanding it all happen today is arrogant.

Being firm in our convictions is an attribute: being unwilling to listen and possibly be wrong is arrogance.

Taking calculated risks is commendable: not seeking out the wisdom and possibly the help of others is arrogance.

Being assertive with my strengths is healthy: failure to acknowledge my limitations is arrogance.

Taking life, my calling, my relationships, and so forth, seriously, is wise: taking myself too seriously is arrogant. (Lighten up and learn to laugh at yourself!)

Youthful arrogance is understandable in the young. Not so much in older people. Moreover, with the young, YA is far easier to overcome than, say, when you get into your late 30s or older.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013

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