Disdainful pride; superciliousness; arrogance. Haughtiness is the opposite of humility. The Greek and Hebrew words translated “haughty” and “haughtiness” have the basic meaning of causing oneself to appear “high,” “exalted,” “lofty,” “eminent.” One who is haughty is, in his own esteem, superior, lifted up above his fellowmen. As a result, such a person usually claims honor and attention beyond what is due and treats others with disrespect and insolence.
A Condition of the Heart. Haughtiness is a bad quality or characteristic that is deeper than a mental conclusion. Jesus Christ named it along with murder, thievery, blasphemy, and other wrongdoing and said that “from inside, out of the heart of men,” such things issue forth. (Mr 7:21, 22) Jesus’ earthly mother Mary said of Jehovah: “He has scattered abroad those who are haughty in the intention of their hearts.” (Lu 1:51) David appealed to Jehovah, saying: “My heart has not been haughty.”—Ps 131:1; Isa 9:9; Da 5:20.
Even a person whose heart has been humble in service of God can become haughty because of gaining wealth or power or by reason of his beauty, success, wisdom, or the acclaim of others. King Uzziah of Judah was such a person. He ruled well and enjoyed Jehovah’s blessing for many years. (2Ch 26:3-5) But the Bible record states: “However, as soon as he was strong, his heart became haughty even to the point of causing ruin, so that he acted unfaithfully against Jehovah his God and came into the temple of Jehovah to burn incense upon the altar of incense.” (2Ch 26:16) Uzziah lifted himself up to perform priestly duties, which privilege God had expressly withheld from the kings of Israel, making kingship and priesthood separate.
At one time good King Hezekiah became, for a brief period, haughty in heart, and his haughtiness evidently infected the people he ruled. He had been exalted in rulership because of Jehovah’s blessing, but he failed to appreciate and to recognize that all credit should have gone to God. The chronicler writes of him: “But according to the benefit rendered him Hezekiah made no return, for his heart became haughty and there came to be indignation against him and against Judah and Jerusalem.” Happily, he recovered from this dangerous attitude. The account continues: “However, Hezekiah humbled himself for the haughtiness of his heart, he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and Jehovah’s indignation did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah.”—2Ch 32:25, 26; compare Isa 3:16-24; Eze 28:2, 5, 17.
God Opposes Haughtiness. Not only are haughty ones distasteful to honest men but, more seriously, they also receive the opposition of Jehovah God. (Jas 4:6; 1Pe 5:5) Haughtiness is foolishness and a sin (Pr 14:3; 21:4), and Jehovah sets himself against the haughty to bring them low. (2Sa 22:28; Job 10:16; 40:11; Ps 18:27; 31:18, 23; Isa 2:11, 17) If not forsaken, haughtiness is sure to bring destruction. The ancient nation of Moab, which lifted itself up against God and his people, was brought to nothing. (Isa 16:6; 25:10, 11; Jer 48:29) Even the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel was not spared when it became haughty and insolent in heart.—Isa 9:8-12.
Guarding Against Haughtiness. A person should therefore watch carefully to keep haughtiness out of his heart. He should be especially on guard when he has achieved success in any endeavor or when he is given a higher or more responsible position. He ought to be mindful that “pride is before a crash, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (Pr 16:18) If he lets haughtiness grow, it can come to control him to the extent that Jehovah will class him with those whom He gives up to a disapproved mental state, and who are deserving of death. (Ro 1:28, 30, 32) Such caution is especially appropriate in “the last days,” when, as the apostle warned, haughtiness would be one of the distinguishing characteristics of those critical times.—2Ti 3:1, 2.
Additionally, the person desiring God’s favor should avoid flattery, which tends to cultivate haughtiness in others. The proverb says: “An able-bodied man that is flattering his companion is spreading out a mere net for his steps.” (Pr 29:5) Not only does the flatterer bring ruin to his companion (“a flattering mouth causes an overthrow”; Pr 26:28) but he also receives God’s disfavor. The apostle Paul was careful to avoid both flattery and haughtiness.—1Th 2:5, 6.