The Stain of Self-Righteousness
Influence In The World

The Stain of Self-Righteousness

Posted by Regi Campbell on October 29, 2015

Jesus was toughest on self-righteous people. He could hang with prostitutes, tax collectors and lepers, but the Pharisees and religious scholars made His teeth itch. He constantly challenged them . . . calling them out for their hypocrisy . . . for lording rules and regulations over people to prove their ‘righteousness’ and the ‘unrighteousness’ of everyone else.

Perhaps nothing incites us more than a pious religious person telling us we don’t measure up like they do. As Jesus-followers we are particularly at-risk because we have a Lord who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” (John 14:6). And we believe Him. That’s an ‘essential’ and I go with Augustine who said, “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.”

But it’s peripheral things . . . these ‘non-essentials’ that stain our reputation and limit our influence. We build a fort around our beliefs and when someone has a different idea, we defend our fort as if it were the Gospel itself. We’re so confident of our answer, we often sound closed-minded and self-righteous. We end conversations rather than begin them, and all this over ‘non-essentials’ that won’t send anyone to heaven or hell.

I am the ‘first among sinners’ on this one. Years ago, my friend Charlie looked at me and said, “Do you realize how self-righteous you are?” It was after a long conversation when I had vigorously defended what I thought to be right. In that moment, I was thinking, “How in the world did he come to think that? We’re having a conversation about ideas . . . it wasn’t personal!” But it was personal. Ideas are owned by people and when you don’t embrace someone’s ideas . . . when you express your ideas as right, you (inadvertently) put their ideas down. When you put someone’s ideas down, you put them down and appear self-righteous. Mind you, it’s not intentional . . . just an unintended consequence of a conversation where you simply shared your thoughts.

The sad part is people don’t forget. I heard once that it takes hours of positive contact to overcome a negative first impression formed in a few seconds. Once you’re branded as ‘self-righteous,’ other people (subconsciously) start listening to everything you say through the filter of “He’s self-righteous.” You’re now guilty . . . again and again.

One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control or self-discipline. When we pause and pray . . . when we think through not just what we’re about to say but the mindset of the person we’re saying it to, we can avoid creating a ‘self-righteous’ label for ourselves. It takes conscious effort but it’s doable.

I hereby make a blanket apology to everyone who reads this blog or who has conversed with me personally about some ‘non-essential’ issue where I stated my opinion so strongly that you thought I was self-righteous. I am sorry. I ask your forgiveness. I’m on a journey just like you. I love to find (what I think is) helpful truth. I get excited to share it and I will continue to do so. But always know that I don’t know. I know Jesus and Him crucified, risen and alive! Everything else is on the table.

Comment here.

Responses (8)

Brad Zimmerman
Brad Zimmerman Posted: October 29, 2015, 2:08 pm

Great food for thought. I know I am frequently guilty of this. Thanks for sharing.

Rob Posted: October 29, 2015, 2:51 pm

Regi, great article. There are so many polarizing issues today and it’s all too easy to defend our positions and shut down real conversations. I never thought of it this way, but I’m sure that I too have been guilty of coming across as self-righteous when my passion for my position superseded my passion for sharing Christ’s love.

David Garrett
David Garrett Posted: October 29, 2015, 4:21 pm

I am wholeheartedly behind you. What I find on many discussion forums is just what you pointed out about unity. Many are divided on truly scriptural issues. Many cannot even tell you what the Gospel is. Some preach a ” Prayer of Salvation” which is found no where in scripture. Others faith only and nary a word on being Baptized. Through the years too much man made “doctrine” has watered down Christianity. Most people don’t know what’s made up and what’s biblical within their own denomination. Sad state of affairs and Satan just sits back and laughs. He doesn’t need us to be full on atheists but is quite content we us believing just enough to keep us out of heaven.

Mike Atkinson
Mike Atkinson Posted: October 29, 2015, 5:02 pm

Great message. Applicable at work and in my marriage. Hard to be seen as humble and self righteous. Thanks Regi.

Reminds me that I need to be slow to speak and quick to pray.

Know that I’m praying for you, brother.

bill cain
bill cain Posted: October 30, 2015, 12:38 pm

I know Jesus and Him crucified, risen and alive! Everything else is on the table. Great ending, this has long been my personal stance on any doctrinal debate or discussion. Yet, I find it easy to believe that as a concept much more than an application in my life. Thanks for spurring me on and reminding that opinions most times should be asked for.

Leon Jones
Leon Jones Posted: October 30, 2015, 4:54 pm

Really good blog. I found myself saying “Amen” to almost all of your points. With Christian churches going under with each passing day, it’s a pleasure to find someone who really gets this “Good News” thing. I’m looking forward to reading your next blog.

Trip Posted: November 1, 2015, 1:30 pm

Good post and reminder. Thanks!
I’m thankful for a brother pointing out the example of Jesus as a young man in the temple with the teachers- He listened and asked questions!
I try to keep that in mind in-between my lapses into pontification.

Saimone Johnson
Saimone Johnson Posted: November 2, 2015, 2:25 am

I have the same problem when sharing my ideas and don’t realise that when I don’t listen to others perspective, they tend to distance themselves from conversing with me. As you said it is unintentional and sometimes we get caught up in the moment of debate. I need to remind myself every time that my angle is not always the one that is expected and I need to listen more and talk less

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