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We seem to be living in an era of rampant self-righteousness and this is not healthy. So many people have strong opinions that negate not only the opinions of others, but also the holders of those opinions. This is another example of our era of arrogance in which we live which separates us further from one another. I have written before about how it is healthier to embrace humility in order to overcome our tendency toward arrogance . Humility combats arrogance by connecting us more closely to each other.These divisiveness of self-righteousness and arrogance are closely related, similar in their negative effects, and can be overcome using the same tools.

Self-righteousness is defined as “the conviction that one’s beliefs and behaviors are the MOST correct.” Implicit in this is a judgmentalism that everyone else who doesn’t hold these beliefs is inferior. We see this mentality in politics, fundamentalist religion, parenting, education, the work environment, and many relationships. It is a damaging phenomenon because the judgement involved leads to lack of understanding and compassion. In fact, it is an exclusionary way of looking at life.

“Those who don’t hold my beliefs and behaviors are not only wrong, they are different, and are therefore a threat to me!” is the sentiment often expressed by the self-righteous individual.

It is expressed as the all too common performative moral outrage we see today amongst many politicians, activists and certain other public figures. Dismissing someone else’s opinion simply comes from a lack of understanding, insight and openness and leads to narrow, “my way or the highway” thinking which is inhibits working together to solve problems.

The self - righteous may have other motivations. Consider this quote from John Mark Green: “The self - righteous scream judgment against others to hide the noise of skeletons dancing in their own closets.” Is self-righteousness a defense against guilt, shame and embarrassment? Perhaps. Lack of self-examination, honesty and candor are often a characteristics of the self-righteous.

How do we combat this damaging phenomenon?

One way is to embrace the fact that we humans are motivated by the same basic needs. We long to be seen, heard and know that we matter. We long to be loved and to make difference. We must try to recognize that our differing opinions are based on our individual and varied life experiences. Every opinion may be different, but none are wrong! By seeking to understanding and accept others’ lives, we can better understand the genesis of their opinions, which seem so different from ours, but are no less valuable or authentic.

Try to get to know people with different life experiences than yours. Perhaps they may come from a different faith tradition, a different political background, a different country or culture. Maybe they are simply from a different generation! Ask them questions, listen to their answers. Be open. Be amazed. And then be grateful that your world is made of of folks from all walks of life, doing their best to be their best, and therefore with varied opinions on life! Concentrate less on winning arguments and more on mindfully accepting differences.

You may learn more about yourself and the world. You may also become more open and make decisions which are actually more helpful while also being less divisive.

In health,

Dr. John Monaco

MONACO Wellness

(813) 252-6378

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