Taking a Retreat From Humility?

Some people seem to have taken a retreat from humility. When they are around others they don’t appear humble but they behave as “know-it-all’s.”smug.jpg

1. The man in a small church who had a master’s degree. Most everyone else never went to college. This was a farming community filled with many hard-working people This one man stood out in this church not because of his education but because of his attitude. He would often comment in Bible classes at his church with an air of authority about what a certain passage really meant. I remember the Sunday morning he read to all of us from the dictionary the definition of “spirit,” proving to us that any talk of the Holy Spirit being a living, distinct being was nonsense.

2. The minister in a church who had a way of conveying to those around him that he had little, if anything, still to learn. At one point, he told a younger minister, “We know all that we need to know; we just need to do it.” Needless to say, he saw little value in serious study and reflection.

3. The young parents who have read the latest parenting book and know all about rearing children. Now most young parents feel anything but confident in rearing children but this particular couple did. They had read the latest, greatest book and now they had the answers. When other young parents expressed confusion or frustration about their work as parents, this couple had the answers.

I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. You’ve seen these people. Gracious is not the word that I would use to describe them.

Some people seem to think they know most everything. They have a way of correcting you in a way that feels condescending. You slip and make a mistake. They have the answer or feel like they have to make some kind of demeaning comment. They have a way of making you feel silly for each and every blunder you make. After all, they are evidently beyond all of this.

Then, there are those people who never do take a retreat from humility.

These are gracious people.

People who are not gracious have a way of leaving others feeling less than, taken for granted, or diminished in value. They may express little gratitude. Nor do they express any joy in the things that bring you joy. No, they seem to communicate that their own world is more important and more significant than whatever you might have to offer.

Contrast this attitude with that of a businesswoman on the West Coast who recently made a business trip to a city in the South. Her host picked her up at the airport and the woman’s graciousness began immediately. She asked her host question after question about life in this city. She genuinely seemed fascinated with what she saw and heard. As they drove along, she talked about the beauty of her surroundings. She asked questions about some of the favorite foods of the area. She also asked her host about some of the “must see” places in that city.

At the end of the day, she impressed her host with her graciousness.


Why might someone come across as a “know-it -all”? In contrast to this, have you known people with a graciousness that impressed you?


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2 thoughts on “Taking a Retreat From Humility?

  1. Someone who scans a blog post and immediately jumps to make a comment can come across as a know-it-all. 😉

    I have spent the bulk of my professional life around folks with a lot of knowledge. Essentially all are college educated, generally with PhDs. A know-it-all is just that: someone who does not understand the limits of their knowledge. A PhD in physics does not make you an expert in law or economics. I have met folks who have every right to be arrogant, but pass at every chance. This graciousness is simply a case of do unto others. Who likes to feel inferior?

  2. Dave– I like the way you describe a know-it-all as “…someone show does not understand the limits of their knowledge.” Many of us find fellow-learners much more attractive and engaging than people who seem to know it all. Thanks Dave.