The 2 Most Subtle, Yet Destructive Words You Could Say!

I hope I caught your attention with the title. What I want to share with you today is very serious and very important to me. Everything that I write is a lesson I have learned or am still learning. What I will share with you today is a personal battle that I’ve fought against for a long time. The two words that I want to share with you can destroy your relationships. These two words can destroy your career. These two little words can rob a leader of his/her title. And these two words can take a great church with a lot of influence to a small church with zero influence very fast. As you probably know, the words themselves are not the problem, rather it is the context in which they are delivered and the heart behind the words. Nearly everyone gets caught up in saying these words. Usually these words get used to take the focus off of us and our imperfections. The two little words I am talking about are “I KNOW.” Think about yourself for a moment… how often do you say those two words? Maybe you don’t say the exact words but you probably use a variation of them. If you’re like me, I would guess that you say them more often then you’d like to admit.

Most of the time when we are saying “I KNOW,” someone is trying to help us, change us, or teach us something. Our internal negative tendency is to agree and say “I KNOW,” or a variation of. Here’s the problem with that… if we really knew and put into action what we say we know, we wouldn’t be having the conversation about the issue in the first place!

When I get caught up in responding with a version of “I KNOW” to someone else… my response was often rooted in arrogance and pride. I didn’t want to admit I was wrong. Other times, I did “KNOW,” I was simply too lazy to apply what I knew.

So how can the words “I KNOW” be destructive as the title suggests?

1. “I KNOW” is usually a symptom of arrogance and pride, putting you in opposition with God. Here’s a few examples of what God has to say about pride Prov 16:5 Prov 29:3 Prov 11:2 Prov 26:12 Prov 16:18 Prov 25:27 Prov 8:13 Prov 11:12

2. “I KNOW” will push those that can help you away. When I was a sales trainer years ago, I had sales reps who faced struggles. Some reps pulled out of the slump and others never did. Many times the slump was due to lack of activity or a specific skill set that needed refined. When the sales rep was coached on the lack of activity, the answer almost always was “I KNOW” from the reps that never pulled out of the slump. When the sales rep that didn’t pull out of the slump was coached on a specific skill set, the answer almost always was, “I’M ALREADY SAYING/DOING THAT.” As you can guess, they weren’t already saying or doing what they should have been saying or doing. They did “KNOW” what they were supposed to do, or did KNOW but chose to not do it. The end result was failure that was rooted in pride. The attitude and the heart of the sales rep made the trainers not want to help them because advice was falling on deaf ears. I KNOW will push those that can help you away!

3. “I KNOW” will destroy your career. If you are not the boss, you will have a difficult time submitting to authority. If you are the boss, nobody will want to work for a know it all who doesn’t listen to feedback!

4. “I KNOW” will take a great church with a lot of influence to a small church with zero influence very fast. To save space, just read points 1,2 &3 again because it applies to a church. Beyond those 3 points, I will add that a church with a “I KNOW” attitude will tend to have leaders that are not submitted to authority. When church leaders are not submitted to authority, the congregation tends to have little submission to the leadership of the church.

5. “I KNOW” will ruin your relationships. We’ve all heard the saying, “Nobody wants to hang out with a know it all.” I would add, especially your spouse and children!

A few years ago, when I attacked this issue in my heart I found a list called “Signs of Pride.” I do not know who to give the credit to for the list, but I hope it is as revealing to you as it was to me…


1. Insecurity. Research reveals clergy as one of the most insecure of all professional groups. Insecurity is the root of many unhealthy and ungodly behaviors. It provokes us to want the lavish praise and attention of others too much. Much of pride is motivated out of one’s unmet need for self-worth. Finding one’s identity and security in Christ is a must to avoid pride.

2. The need to be right. Ever encounter someone who has a hard time being wrong? This is a symptom of pride. The need to be right prevents one from appropriately evaluating issues as well as themselves (Galatians 6:3). A person who needs to be right has an exalted investment in himself or herself and thinks that he/she knows better than others. In religious circles, the need to be right is frequently manifested through always saying ‘God told me’ or ‘God showed me’.

3. Being argumentative. Individuals, who argue their point of view, especially to those in authority over them, are allowing pride to get the best of them. At the root of their argument is a belief that they are right and the other is wrong and that their will should prevail. It is appropriate to advocate for a point of view or position but not to do so in such a manner that you are more invested in your opinion than in arriving at a mutual understanding.

4. More invested in being heard than in hearing. When someone develops a pattern of needing others to listen to them rather than first hearing others, pride is motivating the need. The need to be heard is common among clergy who are insecure. Oftentimes, the individual does not feel loved or valued unless people “hear them out.” In truth, this is often just an expression of insecurity and pride. 5. Anger. Anger is a self-justifying emotion. This means that the nature of anger is to prompt us to justify our position and blame another for the wrongdoing. Justification of self leads to denial of our own complicity or wrongdoing. The scripture warns that the “anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20). An individual who is angry a lot is suffering from pride.

6. Irritability and impatience. Even though I am a counselor, it was only recently that I learned that the root of impatience in my life is anger and therefore pride. When we are unable to be patient with another and are irritated, it demonstrates a haughty view of self. We feel that our views, time or needs are more important than the other persons. This again is more an indication of our pride than someone else’s slow movement or imperfection.

7. Lack of submissive attitude. Submission is the voluntary placement of oneself under the influence, control or authority of another. When an individual pledges their submission to you or another, yet is critical or argumentative of that authority, then pride is the hidden issue. The test of humility and submission is being able to say ‘yes’, maintain a positive attitude and trust God, especially when the decision of your authority goes against your grain or better judgment.

8. Not easily corrected. Ever work or live with someone who won’t receive any negative or corrective feedback? This too is pride. Before he died, a pastor in the East Valley was noted for being easily entreated and able to receive corrective feedback from others. He would thank the person for the negative feedback and commit to pray about it, seek counsel and get back to the person with what conclusions he came to. He was a role model for many of us.

9. Receiving correction but not changing. I worked with a man who often would receive my correction and say thank you for the feedback, but would never change. This too is a form of pride. The individual was placating me and people-pleasing me, telling me what I wanted to hear but not really taking the feedback to heart. His insecurity and fear prevented him from truly changing.

10. Needing others to take your advice. Counselors, such as myself, easily fall into the trap of having to have others take their advice. Advice should always be offered without strings attached. If you find yourself resenting the fact that your advice is not followed, look deeper at the motivating issues in your life.

11. Needing to proclaim your title or degrees. A good friend of mine requires everyone to call him ‘pastor’, saying that he has deservedly earned the title. Demanding that others call you ‘doctor’ or ‘pastor’ or ‘bishop’ is usually a way of making you ‘one up’ and them ‘one down’. Once again, pride is fueling the requirement.

12. Being stubborn. Webster’s dictionary defines stubbornness as “unduly determined to exert one’s own will, not easily persuaded and difficult to handle or work, resistant.” The root issue of stubbornness is willfulness, which is ‘I want what I want when I want it’. Another name for pride.

13. Comparisons and competition. 2 Corinthians 10:12 makes it clear that comparing oneself with others is unwise. Comparison is a form of competition. It is often overt. For example, emphasizing the size of one’s church, the number of converts, etc. However, it can also be the subtle sin of heart that inwardly grieves when another is more successful or rejoices when another pastor’s ministry enters hard times. The motive of heart is pride.

“I KNOW” is subtle, yet destructive! Remove that phrase from your vocabulary. Most importantly, remove the pride and arrogance from your heart that causes you to say it!

About the Author: Mathew P. Gahm is the creator of Mathew grew up in church as a young child and was very comfortable with church. He became so comfortable that he lived a life of sin and disappointment. But because of God's never-ending pursuit of us, He rescued Mathew from his brokenness. Mathew was born again in 2006. In April of 2007, He was in a tragic car accident leaving Mathew legally dead two times and in a short coma! During this event, Mathew had an experience that gave him deeper understanding of who God is and what His plans were for his life. Mathew is in a constant pursuit of God's will and ways for his life and loves helping others do the same!

Mathew's past was a diverse background in business from sales & marketing to management. At several times in his career, he has built some of the largest sales and marketing organizations or teams in the nation. With a passion for self-growth and self-improvement, Mathew has found that the only principles that will better you and your life are the ones that line up with scripture. Mathew has an ability to see things in scripture that are not the obvious, and he has a talent for teaching those things in a simple, practical and applicable way that will produce results for anyone!