Being self-righteous means that an individual is believing that they have the final authority, they say that it’s coming from God, but they’re basing it on their own self beliefs; whatever is suiting them the best in a given situation. Being self-righteous is a paradox. The individual is saying that they serve God or a higher power, but still taking final direction from themself. This type of behavior gets tricky for those who come from a religious or spiritual background because you may want to try and see their perspective and deny yourself and your beliefs. You may question if you are fully equipped with God’s Word and in spiritual alignment. If you are a non-believer of a higher power, you will most likely think this ideology is silly and not scientifically proven to believe. Either way, you are left with doubt and may question your own beliefs.
Let’s take a look at the scriptures for evidence of what the Lord is asking of His believers. According to Matthew 7:1, “Judge not that ye be not judged.” Meaning if you’re going to judge anyone, judge yourself. Self-righteous individuals are overly confident about their righteousness or moral superiority that they attempt to “lord” it over others, unjustifiably putting others down as weak, dependent, and placing collective faith over individualized, non-religious experience.
On the contrary, the righteous are assumed to be humbled and devoted to God, depending on His strength for guidance, not their own. Self-righteous individuals are known for being hypocritical and employing a double standard when it comes to “right” behavior.
Psychology Today states in Righteous vs. Self-Righteous article that if you call yourself righteous, you also need to have a humbling spirit or you’re just being self-righteous. This goes back to being self-aware and being open to other people’s opinions. You may not agree with everyone but you are still willing to listen and learn.
Self-righteous individuals are notorious for vindicating themselves apart from evidence to assume that they are “righteous” when in fact their actions are almost psychotic. Meaning that they are delusional enough to believe that they are the chosen one and more righteous than those around them.
According to the New Testament theologian Darrell Bock (1994), it shows how humility is key and what is missing from the self-righteous:
Pride preaches merit; humility pleads for compassion… Pride separates by putting down others; humility identifies with others, recognizing we all have the same (essential) need(s). Pride destroys through its alienating self-service; humility opens doors with its power to sympathize with struggle we share. Pride turns up its nose; humility offers an open and lifted-up hand.
One of my favorite new reads, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided By Politics and Religion (2012), it defines righteousness by including a psychological approach. It attempts to show how self-righteous individuals have lost their curiosity and are deeply rooted in selfish acts. Their moral compass is off and are acting out in “psychotic” behaviors.
If individuals can break away from their self-righteous patterns, we might be able to all view humans as equals — all trying to survive in this world! We need to look for values that are universally shared even if others differ in their religious or political beliefs. Only then can we bridge the gap between religious teachings, self-righteous beliefs, and scientifically proven human nature.