Self-righteousness is one of the biggest contributing factors to the division and contempt we are experiencing in our country today.
Self-righteousness keeps us feeling contemptuous. It keeps us stuck in our point of view, and unwilling to even consider other viewpoints. It’s an attitude, a display of moral superiority, derived from a sense that one’s beliefs, actions, or affiliations are of greater value than those of another. Self-righteousness is a sure way to separate ourselves from others. It leaves little room for understanding, compromise, or dialogue. Beto O’Rourke can teach us a thing or two.
We always have a choice as to how we present our views. An inspiring example of engaging without self-righteousness was Beto O’Rourke’s response to a question about whether the Take a Knee Movement was disrespectful to our country and our veterans.
Self-righteousness and contempt have prevented dialogue on all sides of this issue. The right stands self-righteously in the belief that “kneelers” are disrespecting the flag and the nation. They are unwilling to entertain any other perspective. The left self-righteously rejects what it perceives to be a false narrative and bigotry. It believes this kind of protest is what makes America great and that freedom of speech is a basic right.
Beto began by clearly stating, “Reasonable people can disagree on this issue, let’s begin there. And it makes them no less American to come down on a different conclusion on this issue, right? You’re every bit as American all the same.” Beto went on to lay out his views in a heartfelt, clear and non-self-righteous way. He referenced and drew a parallel to other nation-altering movements in our history that were needed to right injustice.
Beto clearly had a strong opinion on the issue. He could have answered in a very different way. Yet his humble, respectful, but powerful response showed us that civility and choosing to leave self-righteousness behind can go a long way. It helps open lines of communication and maybe eventually even find some common ground.
Do you think the person who asked the question heard Beto because of his tone, stance, and demeanor? We think there is a very good chance that he did. All of us can learn from Beto’s response. We can either slam the door to opinions and beliefs that are different to our own or stay open and listen. It is our choice whether or not to allow self-righteousness and contempt poison our nation’s well-being. During Senator John McCain’s funeral service, President Obama said, “we never doubted we were on the same team.” He was telling us that no matter what side of the divide we fall on, we all feel great allegiance to our country. And isn’t this what ultimately unites us?
Self-righteousness is an easy out – easy to hide behind to avoid challenging conversations. We would do well to remember this and check our self-righteousness at the door.