In the newsroom where I work sits a counter where people put doughnuts and cookies for everyone to share.
Today someone set out a container of humungous cookies, each with 480 calories and 23 fat grams. For those keeping score, one cookie is 12 Weight Watchers points, which is more than half my daily allotment.
I'm telling you this because I am not eating any, not even a taste. Instead, I'm drinking a cup of decaf coffee, sipping it slowly as I listen for the sounds of other people nibbling massive amounts of caloric sinful indulgence and feeling quite pleased with myself.
A few people have asked if I tried any of the cookies, and I've truthfully replied that I haven't. I have my decaf coffee, thank you for asking.
Of course, I keep to myself what I'm really thinking: I'm not eating cookies and you are, which means at least for this moment I am better than you are, more self-controlled and disciplined. I may even spend an extra 10 minutes at the gym later and eat two vegetables for dinner tonight. Oh, you're having pizza? Well, that's fine for you. Pass me the tilapia please. Grilled, of course.
In the book, Same Kind of Different As Me, former homeless man Denver Moore wrote, "We all is homeless." He said rich or poor or in between, earth is not our final resting place. "So in a way, we all is homeless—just workin' our way toward home."
Well, if "we all is homeless," we all is self-righteous, too.
It's not just cookie abstainers versus cookie eaters. It's tea drinkers who feel morally superior to coffee drinkers, and coffee drinkers who believe drinking it black is morally superior to adding cream and sugar.
It's vegetarians versus those who eat things that once had faces. Poor people think they're somehow more real than those who are rich, because the rich are just pure eee-vil. And don't forget about smokers —they're not even fit to share the planet with non-smokers.
Republicans think liberals are brainless and Democrats think conservatives are heartless. (Is that fur you're wearing? You actually buy your clothes at Wal-Mart?)
It's often worse among Christians. How easily I forget that apart from Christ no good thing dwells in me and start thinking I'm all that and a bag of chips and that my particular preferences are superior to yours—and that God likes me best.
I start thinking that my church is better than yours. We do communion the correct way. We use the only true Bible translation and our mode of baptism is the only right one. Our women do/don't wear make up and our people do/do not drink beer.
Also, our traditional/contemporary style pleases God and yours, sadly, doesn't. But maybe if it was more like ours, if you were more like me Â€¦.
What should horrify every Christian—we don't even know that that's what we believe. You, me, in all of our arrogance and pride, we think we're being humble. Often the most humble-appearing people are the most self-righteous. Trust me. I have the outward humility thing down pat.
The biggest danger of self-righteousness is that I can see it in you, but not in myself, mainly because I'm too preoccupied with being critical of the things in you and feeding my own sense of rightness. It's sick and twisted —and a gift from God when he opens my eyes to see it in myself.
Seeing it is the first step to dealing with it. (I don't think we can ever be rid of it this side of eternity.) My pastor says the next step is taking it to Jesus and then telling everyone we know that we've been to him and why.
It's the whole removing the log in my own eye and not concerning myself with the speck of sawdust in yours. When I can admit my self-righteousness and confess it as the sin it is, it makes it easier to love others. Despite our differences, I can love you, and that's what I'm commanded to do.
P.S. The truth is, if no one was around to see, I'd be eating one of those humungous cookies. God help me, I thought you should know.
Let's get the discussion going: How have you been self-righteous and what impact has it had on your relationships with others?
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