There’s a Lot to be Said for Self-Righteousness
FEBRUARY 9, 2022
Self-righteousness is just another name for self-sufficiency. It is a horrible trait for a number of reasons.
First, it is always a lie. Nobody is that righteous, and hardly anybody is that sufficient. Second, it requires a mask. And if we wear that mask long enough, it will make us phony and empty. Third, it will cause others to label us “hypocrites.” If people don’t know us, it will cause them to either run in the opposite direction or become as sick as we are.
But more important than anything else, self-righteousness will kill any hope we have of ever being free, forgiven, and able to live in some kind of reasonable peace with ourselves.
Don’t get me wrong, though, there is a lot to be said for self-righteousness. As a preacher, I’m into self-righteousness.
Most Christians (and pagans, conservatives, liberals, progressives, everyone else) are too. You see it in the “gotcha” politics of our culture, in the halls of academia where position and publishing are everything, inside abortion clinics where abortions are performed by “pro-choice” advocates, and outside the same clinics where “pro-life” advocates picket and pray. It comes from talking heads on television and hosts of talk shows paid big bucks to pontificate. It is on the editorial pages of every newspaper in the world. Self-righteousness is the stuff of Tea Parties on the right and fund-raisers on the left. It is like a weed that is everywhere and nearly impossible to get rid of.
Self-righteousness is addictive and, like most addictions, more and more of the drug is required to get that initial kick. When it starts, it feels good, but before long we’re waiting for a vacancy in the Trinity and wondering where all our friends have gone. Self-righteous folks only hang out with other self-righteous folks, and that’s the stuff of which revolutions and churches are made. There is, of course, a difference between self-righteousness and convictions. However, it is a short trip between convictions and self-righteousness. And the real problem is that one hardly ever remembers making the trip.
Self-righteousness makes us feel good; and after a while, it defines who we are and how we see ourselves. It creates an “us and them” mentality and “us” is always right. Let me show you the process: Self-righteousness starts with convictions (a good thing), then moves to discussion (another good thing), and finally falls into the devil’s trinity of dismissal, demonization, and destruction (some very bad things).
The most salient thing about self-righteousness is that it creates blindness. In other words, self-righteousness is hardly ever diagnosed or acknowledged by someone who is self-righteous. This disease is killing us, and the tragedy is that we don’t even know it.
Adapted from Steve’s book, Three Free Sins, published by Howard Books, copyright 2012 by Steve Brown. Used by permission.