Feel free to fill in the blank with any unsavory title you’ve given someone when you think they’re being an arrogant _______. But don’t pretend you haven’t been the arrogant ______ once or twice. Pride.
It comes before a fall.
It lingers in us all.
I sat down with a friend of mine the other day, and had one of those great, life-giving kinds of conversations. We talked about a lot of things—ideas and where they come from, what inspires us, where we are when they come and whether they come to us in colors, pictures, dreams or words, etc.—but it seemed that again and again we returned to the topic of pride.
Pride is in each of us, and as artists we all struggle with it in different ways. For many of us, the work that we do, the things we make, the stories we bring to life are coming from the deepest parts of ourselves, so to remove ourselves from those things and remain humble can be a difficult task. Pride is certainly an ugly thing, and it’s not easy to set aside.
So how do you remove pride from the equation?
I don’t have hard and fast answers, but I can share with you how I sometimes fight the battle. Here are a few ways to delfate our inflated egos:
Get some collaborators.
One of the greatest things I’ve ever had a chance to be a part of was this past year’s Easter expression at ROCKHARBOR. (You can see the video here.)
All I brought to the table was a bare-bones idea, and even that idea was struck upon in collaboration. And when I brought that idea to my friends and collaborators I wasn’t even entirely sure it was possible. Over the course of the next couple months a number of talented people spoke into that idea and made it something that was not only possible, but was wildly beyond what I could have hoped it would be.
It was beautiful. It was moving. It was surprising. It was a spectacle.
And I really couldn’t use it to fuel my ego because I didn’t feel like it was really mine.
If the idea isn’t entirely yours, if you can’t draw clear lines around who did what or who had which idea, then you can’t really take too much credit for it. And that’s a good thing.
Get a critic.
We all like to receive accolades, but we all know that sincere criticism is more useful for growth. I work closely with a couple people who keep me grounded. They let me know when they love what they see, and they extend me a lot of trust. But they also tell me the truth when they think I’m headed in the wrong direction. They even care enough about me and what we’re trying to communicate to tell me the truth when they don’t get it at all.
A good critic who is on your team but who isn’t a “fan” is a good thing.
Get out of the way.
This is somewhat related to the first one, but sometimes we have to get out of the way of our own ideas.
Again, back to Easter:
If I had held onto my sad, half-baked idea like it was my only child, if I had coddled it and tried to solve its glaring problems on my own…well…there would have been disaster. By turning it over to talented friends—and I mean really putting it in the hands of those people, people who could point out its weaknesses and turn them into beauty—we arrived at something better than I could have conceived on my own. But what’s more, in the process I saw just how creative, strong, gracious and humble my friends and collaborators could be.
I really think the best way to avoid getting wrapped up in the pride of your last project is to get on to the next one. Don’t rest on your laurels. Don’t bask in the praise. Get to work. As the wastebasket fills with discarded ideas and you find you’re back at square one you’ll quickly remember that this creating business doesn’t come easily to anyone, including you.
I know, this isn’t really one you can control, but if you haven’t been there yet…you will. And you may just find that it’s the greatest gift you could be given.
Without fail, the projects for which I receive the most numerous and effusive compliments are the ones that have been born out of the ideas that came to me when I was fresh out of ideas.
A few months ago I was right there. Stuck. I began to read Genesis. I began to reaquaint myself with my creative God. As I began to make space in my life for prayer, quiet, inspiration and study the ideas began to flow. Instead of ramming my head against the walls of my limited knowledge, I turned to laying the foundation for a bigger understanding of my Creator.
And the ideas came. I don’t believe for a moment that those ideas are ones over which I can claim ownership.
By no means is this list an exhaustive study of the weapons in our war against pride, but these are some of the ways I have tempered a bit of my own arrogance. If they’re helpful in any way…don’t tell me. It will just go to my head.