Self Righteousness

“Relieve me of the bondage of self…” Third Step Prayer

“Why does your friend’s behavior upset you so much?”
She said, “Because she shouldn’t be doing this stuff, it’s bad for her.”

“Yes, but why are you so upset?”
“I don’t know!” she said.  “Maybe I’m feeling self righteous. She could be….” She went on to list off the actions that her friend should be taking.

This got me thinking about self righteousness. Miriam Webster defines it as “having or characterized by a certainty, especially an unfounded one, that one is totally correct or morally superior.”righteous

Totally correct or morally superior. Ohhhh, that’s super appealing. How powerful! Being totally correct, being morally superior. Sign me up! There’s a draw back though. People don’t like self righteousness.  No one likes to be told they are totally wrong or morally inferior. And yet we all do it.

I see it all the time, don’t you? Look at our headlines today. The whole country is in opposition, each side claiming their moral superiority, their absolute correct point of view.  “I’m right, and you’re an idiot.”

Pernicious self righteousness bleeds into just about anything. Most of us practice it regularly, so we’ve gotten really good at it.  Whenever we get outraged by someone else’s actions, by the talk radio host, by the headlines, we are practicing this insidious character flaw. No wonder our relationships suffer.

Here’s the thing: when we are practicing anything on a regular basis it becomes second nature.  If we are unconsciously practicing self righteousness it unwittingly becomes second nature.  As a result there is less peace, less brother hood, less tolerance, less compassion and less love in this world.

This world needs more of these things, not less.  Let’s try to be mindful of those things that push us towards self righteousness, and then make the conscious choice to be curious and open minded instead of judging and critical.

Just for today

When I start to feel myself getting frustrated or irritated with someone, I’ll pause and  ask myself, “Do I want to be right, or do I want to be happy?”  I’ll take a breath, clear my mind and choose to be curious and open minded.


God, help me see where my self righteousness is blocking my evolution. Point out those things in my life that are feeding my sense of superiority.  Give me the willingness to take a sabbatical from those specific things. Show me how you view the people and situations in my life.  Direct my thoughts to be more tolerant, more humble, more like yours.

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