The Worst Thing You Can Do Is Be Self-Righteous
Start writing a post
Lifestyles

The Worst Thing You Can Do Is Be Self-Righteous

Go to the gym every day to better yourself, not so you can look better than your neighbor Joe across the street. Go to church every Sunday to bring yourself closer to God and community, but not so you can say you're better than Nick, who comes to church on Easter and Christmas.

298
The Worst Thing You Can Do Is Be Self-Righteous

"A cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute," writes C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity.

I watched a sermon the other day by Pastor Francis Chan titled "Grace and New Year's Resolutions Don't Mix." In it was a relatively radical message, to me: the danger in making New Year's Resolutions is not failing at your resolutions, but succeeding at them.

Say, in the most prototypical example, you resolve to go to the gym every day, like everyone else. Say when the calendar turns to December 31, 2019, you have gone to the gym every day, you will feel pretty good about yourself. Your body will look at lot better, you'll feel a lot better, and you'll be a lot more in shape. You swell up with pride and confidence about how great you are for having gone to the gym every day. And then you start to feel special, like you're better than the people who failed at their resolutions.

For Chan and in the view of many, that feeling and swelling of pride is self-righteouness. The holier-than-thou sentiment of feeling accomplished and better than other people, well, is a Christian sin. Chan starts off the sermon asking his audience what the biggest sin is. The various evils in Judeo-Christian law are listed: adultery, sexual immorality, lying, cheating. But Chan dismisses these evils as the greatest sin not because they aren't bad, but because there is something much worse: self-righteousness.

Look into the gospels to see who Jesus presents most of his fury and rage. He is not angry at beggars, poor people, prostitutes, or tax collectors, like many in his society were. Instead, Jesus reserves most of his fury for the religious elite officials, the Pharisees. In Mark 12:38-40, Jesus tells us to "beware of the scribes...They will receive the greater condemnation." Matthew 23 is an entire verse of the Bible where Jesus dedicates himself to disparaging the various and plentiful woes of the Pharisees. The word "hypocrite" is used to describe the Pharisees six separate times.

Self-righteousness makes you think you're a good person, one who doesn't need to change anything or grow any part of his or her character. That is fundamentally untrue to any person in the world. We all have plenty of good in us, but also a lot of evil. Self-righteousness makes you believe that you don't sin, when everyone does.

According to Chan, Judeo-Christian law functions not only for us to follow it. Don't lie, don't commit adultery, and don't steal. But Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount that "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart." That means that we are all adulterers, much as we are also liers and thieves.

And that means we can't look to another person and look at their wrongs and sins and say, "well, at least I'm not as bad as that person." I will say that when I was younger, I used to think like that all the time. I used to see what other people were doing wrong in their lives, gossip about them, and share the same sentiment that "at least I'm not that person." I bathed then in self-righteousness, and I am ashamed to say that I once did, and sometimes still do. Despite whatever spiritual awakening I may have had, I am still not immune from occasional thoughts of "oh, at least I'm not that person."

Rather, the law functions for us to realize how often we break it, how often we sin. Chan argues that when we look at the law, we should also look in the mirror to realize how terrible and bad we are. When we do that, we become humble instead of self-righteous. Whether you believe in a higher power or not, the truth is that when you can see how great that higher power is, and how pathetic you are by comparison, then you will be absolved of self-righteousness. No, my self-righteousness has not gone away after a good night's sleep, but rather through continuous humbling experiences in which I realize how worthless, and how much I can't walk through life alone, without companionship, without family, without a savior.

So if we were to make New Year's Resolutions, we have to make them right. Let it not be about anything that makes us feel self-righteous. Go to the gym every day to better yourself, not so you can look better than your neighbor Joe across the street. Go to church every Sunday to bring yourself closer to God and community, but not so you can say you're better than Nick, who comes to church on Easter and Christmas.

If we are spiritual or religious, let's make resolutions that bring us closer to our faith. This year, I resolve to counter the self-righteousness I find in myself and seek to be more humble and grateful. Every day I want to pray and remind myself how lucky I am in every respect. I have faith, I have people, and I am alive. That's more than I could have said at any other point of my life. Woes will come, as they always have, and I deserve all of them and more, but they cannot shake how lucky I've been to come this far.

I could do worse than be a cold, self-righteous prig.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Featured

What Your Car's Color Says About Your Personality

Your color choice speaks volumes. It doesn't just emit an image for the car, it also says something about your style and personality! It's a form of self-expression. Are you confident? Are you sophisticated? Are you easy-going? Are you outgoing? Are you practical? As you're reviewing car sites for your next car purchase, what color will you opt for? Find out what certain color choices says about you!

117100

When it comes to car shopping you likely have certain preferences, including what color it should be. Your color choice speaks volumes. It doesn't just emit an image for the car, it also says something about your style and personality! It's a form of self-expression. Are you confident? Are you sophisticated? Are you easy-going? Are you outgoing? Are you practical? As you're reviewing car sites for your next car purchase, what color will you opt for? Find out what certain color choices says about you!

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

30 Songs On My Back-To-School Playlist For Walks To And From Class

Headed back to in-person classes means you need a pretty banging playlist to power you through those walks to class.

97967
Photo by Zen Chung on Pexels

I don't know about you, but I start each day off with a one-mile walk to class. I have to have good tunes flowing through my ears during those 20 minutes, not to mention the walks between classes and the walks home. So, here is my 30 song playlist to get me through this almost unfamiliar concept we call walking to class.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

Be Kind to Yourself: 8 Mental Health Tips to Try

One way you can improve your quality of life is to take care of your mental health. As a result, you'll feel less depressed and be able to enjoy spending time with friends and family more often. These mental health tips might be just what you need to forget about your problems.

56799

One way you can improve your quality of life is to take care of your mental health. As a result, you'll feel less depressed and be able to enjoy spending time with friends and family more often. These mental health tips might be just what you need to forget about your problems.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

Should You Own An SUV If You Live In A Snowy state?

There are many reasons to own an SUV. If you live in a cold state or a rural area, you will see that owning an SUV is very important.

49891

The gas and oil prices are too high to run in a smaller vehicle. You are better off with an SUV for hauling cargo and driving larger loads around the town. In addition, owning an SUV is more comfortable and safe than driving a smaller vehicle.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

Understanding Why Dog's Lick You

It is a natural instinct for dogs to lick

59416

Why do dogs lick?

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments