My grandmother liked to use the word “uppity” to describe people in town who acted as though they were better than everyone else. Although she was one of the handful of people in her small southern town with reason to act uppity—she was educated, the mayor’s wife, a woman of no small accomplishments—my grandmother was not uppity. My grandmother was a forthright woman, gracious and intelligent, and not given to judgment. She rarely said an unkind word, so when she said someone was uppity, they were.
Uppity is an attitude of snobbishness and haughtiness that is carried by people who think better of themselves than they ought. They don’t know they’re uppity, though. They are unconscious to how they affect others with their uppityness because they don’t usually notice or think deeply about others. Their every thought seems to be about themselves, and about how everything affects them. I write “seems” because it’s apparent when a person is thoughtful and interested in others, and it’s just as apparent when a person is disinterested.
If uppity people think about others at all, it must be with the pathos of the uppity person pretending to be compassionate. Real compassion gets dirty and exposes itself to disease, dirt, and to other people’s untidy habits—kind of like Mother Theresa living among lepers. Uppity people don’t do real compassion, but they like to appear to be compassionate. They’re likely to reserve space in their life for a truly compassionate, giving friend or acquaintance or two so that they can brag about their philanthropist friends and thus, by association, feel philanthropical themselves.
They are posers.
In the dictionary definition of “uppity,” it says that to be uppity is to be “rebelliously self-assertive; not inclined to be tractable or deferential.” A tractable person is one who is easily managed, who can be worked with and shaped, a malleable person who is willing to yield. A tractable person is a humble person, and it follows that the proud person is not.
Proud people think they’re right; people who are right don’t need others to agree with them.
These are fine points that are often missed in the heat of the moment.
Uppity people cannot seem to merely cherish their superiority in their own minds without having to share it with others through their behavior. Uppity people act uppity. They leave no doubt in your mind as to just how superior they are.
The uppity people in my life don’t consider themselves uppity. To the contrary, they pride themselves on their humility and their willingness to appear malleable and tractable.
Yes, they pride themselves on their humility.
I was reminded of this sort of uppitiness during Mass Saturday evening, when the deacon read the gospel reading for the day from Matthew 7:21-23,
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
How harsh Jesus seems in this passage. How could he tell people who prophesied in His name, cast out demons in His name, and performed many miracles in His name that they don’t belong? Surely their every deed proved that they were part of His clan.
But earlier in that passage, beginning in verse 15, Jesus warned the disciples about false prophets “who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” I’ve commented before about vampires, the undead who feed off of live people because they do not have authentic lives of their own. Jesus said that people can look like sheep, even act like sheep, but have the inward disposition of being ravenous wolves. He told his followers to be aware of this sort of person; He said to look at their fruits, their deeds; and then be careful about that sort of person.
Don’t let that wooly clothing fool you, he said: Their deeds will say everything.