Honesty is the cruelest game of all, because not only can you hurt someone – and hurt them to the bone – you can feel self-righteous about it at the same time. –D. V. Ronk
In his essay, ‘The Ethic of Strength,’ Greenleaf continues with his questions; this morning, Gentle Reader, I will briefly offer us another of what I call Greenleaf’s ‘Right Questions.’
Am I sure that in choosing a right aim, I have not become self-righteous? The dictionary of ‘righteous’ puts it as ‘free from wrong, guilt, or sin,’ a state no person ever achieves. Pride in the illusion that one has achieved it is disastrous. The pretense that one has made it by going through the motions, keeping the law, is equally damaging.
The trap in pursuing the good is that one may be overtaken by the feeling that one is wholly good and therefore not like other people. There is no surer way to become disconnected and lose the sense of responsibility than to become self-righteous.
I sit here today asking myself: Specifically, when have I taken ‘pride in the illusion’ of my own self-righteousness? What was the effect and affect [affect = the feelings that emerged as a result of my acting/reacting in a self-righteous manner] of this upon myself and upon the other(s)? What was the ‘damage’ done to me and to the other(s) as a result [think: direct or indirect result, or an intended or unintended consequence, or an intended or unintended by-product]? What role does ‘intention’ have – am I ‘off-the-hook’ if only the ‘unintended’ occur?
More questions emerged: When, out of my self-righteousness, have I communicated that ‘I am not like other people’ [think: ‘I am special’ or ‘I am privileged’ or ‘I am different from’ or ‘If not for the grace of God, there go I’]?
How have I treated others when in this ‘I am not like you’ stance? What was the effect and affect of this upon myself and upon the other(s)? Did I become aware of my then being disconnected – especially from the other(s)? What was my response when I did become aware of being disconnected? What does it mean to have a ‘sense of responsibility’ and response-ability? Can I have a ‘sense of. . .’ and not act responsibly? What does it mean ‘to choose a right aim’? What is the attitude I hold and what are the behaviors I choose to enact when I choose a right aim without choosing to become ‘self-righteous’? How do I react to or respond to the other whom I deem to be acting self-righteously?
I have always found that the hardest mind to change is the one that is self-righteous. –S.L. Alder