On more than one occasion I've been told that I am "self-righteous". I've always assumed that this label is meant as a bad thing, especially since it was most often said in an accusing, derogatory and/or defaming tone.
I've wondered if "they" (my accusers and a few friends that agreed with them) were right or not. I wondered when, in judging me, if THEY were being self-righteous in doing so. I wondered if being self-righteous was really a bad thing.
As I often do, I decided to consult the dictionary:
confident of one's own righteousness, esp. when smugly moralistic and intolerant of the opinions and behavior of others.
Yes, I can be confident at times. There are a few (very few) areas that I feel securely confident and when performing in those areas I feel so incredibly strong. I can't name them because it's in those very same areas, that when critiqued or judged, I wither. I literally fucking crumble (I say "fucking" because it frustrates me to no end that I can't just stand strong regardless of who is watching). It's as if I can only be strong and confident when nobody who will be judging me is watching.
I can, however, confidently acknowledge that I have more courage than confidence so I push myself to feel confident, even when not. More often, tho, I'm less than confident in general about my abilities, my strengths, my talents, skills, knowledge, etc., but I am trying desperately to BE more confident in myself. "Smug"? I really don't see myself as smug. "Intolerant of the behavior of others"? In cases of what I might consider is less than ethical or virtuous behavior, ABSOLUTELY. If someone blatantly breaks the rules of "the game" or of "the road" and thereby doesn't give someone a fair chance or puts someone at risk, YES, I am intolerant of that behavior. If I see a person mistreating another person, YES, I am intolerant of that behavior. I suppose this is an area that I am THE MOST confident in and have had very little trouble calling the offender on the misdeed. Ironically, for this act (of calling out the misdoer), I have been labeled as being "disrespectful". My doing this act of standing up for the little guy, or for defending the cause of the whole, or for promoting the notion of peace and harmony or just for defending and upholding ethics for the sake of maintaining a standard of ethics and morals has been criticized and judged as being disrespectful. And by those closest and most dear to me. Fuck (again with frustration!).
Yes, unfairness, unjust behavior, bullying, etc., triggers intolerance in me. But am I intolerant of other's opinions? I don't think so. I may not agree with every one's opinions but I recognize that they are entitled to their own view on things. For instance, I don't agree that getting in the face of someone whose disregard and careless actions that negatively affect and/or reflect on several other innocent bystanders as being disrespectful but anyone who thinks differently is entitled to their own opinion.
Far too often, however, others are not content with just presenting their own opinions. They want those they are telling them to to share the same opinions they have. It is when these individuals are insistent upon others (and me) to accept and believe THEIR opinions as truth, or when their opinions affect me in some way that I feel violates my space or me personally, yes, I am intolerant of this practice. To each his own, I say. But... do I behave this way? I think I do but maybe others see my actions differently. Or maybe it's obvious to everyone but me.
I know that I have my opinions. I also know that I've offered them when they weren't requested. "My bad". This is Earth School and I know I'm not perfect but I'm here and willing to learn. But was my unsolicited offering really bad? Many, many times when I did that very same thing I was thanked profusely for providing a different perspective. Offering my opinion or shedding light on a different way of perceiving a situation or circumstance was welcomed and as it seemed in those instances, clearly needed. So I find myself, sometimes, in a perplexing position. But, maybe it's not as perplexing as I think... because as a fellow student/teacher in life (and I believe we are ALL students AND teachers equally) I understand that some lessons or awarenesses are not always accepted graciously or with ease. I can recall a number of lessons that I vehemently denied only to later humbly accept.
If everything happens for a reason (which I also firmly believe), then could it be that the nudging I get inside to speak out, to offer my thoughts or perspective is by divine guidance? That's not arrogance speaking. I believe that Spirit (God, Jesus, Angels, all of the above or whatever your belief is) speaks to all of us and guides us. Someone might not like to hear what I offer but perhaps my words plant a seed that will, in time, take root as a new awareness the next time someone else makes a similar comment to them. Or maybe someone before me already planted the seed and my comment is one of the follow-up reminders. That's how it has seemed to work when I get certain awarenesses. "That's the third time someone told me that this week! I better spend some reflection time on that!!"
After reading the definition of "self-righteous" I became curious about the word "righteous" wondering if that is a bad thing? So I looked it up, too.
1. characterized by uprightness or morality: a righteous observance of the law.
2. morally right or justifiable: righteous indignation.
3. acting in an upright, moral way; virtuous: a righteous and godly person.
4. Slang . absolutely genuine or wonderful: some righteous playing by a jazz great.
5. the righteous, (used with a plural verb) righteous persons collectively.
It was only a week ago that I ever so boldly defined myself, in a requested exercise, as "virtuous", "moral", and "genuine". It was, as I understood, accepted by the group as good and honorable to see these things in myself. But (and this is where it gets confusing) apparently outside of a group (where we give ourselves permission to see the good aspects of our character), it's NOT okay to conduct one's self as if one possess these good, honorable, and even lovely traits.
Perhaps the individuals that make the judgment that I am self-righteous are really seeing themselves in me at that moment. I understand that this is the process of how we act as mirrors for each other. I've been told that we cannot see in someone else that which we don't possess ourselves. I can admit that I can be self-righteous. Absolutely. I laugh and joke that, "Well damn it, I AM right!!" And I am. I am right to feel and believe that my opinion is right for me. Nobody else has to assume my opinion. You can have your own. I can have mine. And we can BOTH right. I don't understand, however, how owning this in one's self is wrong. Or bad. Or something that should warrant a brow beating (no matter how gentle or compassionately it is offered).
I can, with absolute certainty, say that those that have said they believe me to be self-righteous, are indeed self-righteous themselves. That's not saying anything negative or derogatory about them or their character. I see them as very confident in what they say, what they know, what they feel and what they believe to be right. The education, the experience, the wisdom, the grace, the intuition each possesses affords them the "right" to be self-righteous. The only fault in being self-righteous, as I see it, lies within judging anyone else to be wrong for not sharing the same belief of "rightness".
In a recent conversation with a friend on this subject she remarked that I was "very defensive" about the self-righteous thing. I paused and realized, I am. I've already acknowledged that I know I am self-righteous. Not all the time but certainly about things I feel are right. This is acknowledging that I also know I'm not right on everything and can own up to it. So why do I feel so defensive when someone tells me I'm self-righteous (or even disrespectful)? I believe it stems from frustration. In trying to find my confidence, to trust my strengths or when owning what I feel is most reliably strong in me, I hear these judgments and feel shot down. Reliably. It really sucks. It's as if my contract with the Universe states that "the MOMENT I experience any confidence or the second I trust my next step forward, have someone, anyone throw a stink bomb at me so I learn to essentially trust no one and believe no one but myself."
Well, there ya go! Maybe that's it in a nutshell. Anyone else's opinion, should it differ from mine, should be simply set in the "Okay, that's how they feel" file, not in the "OMG someone thinks less of me than I do, therefore I need to shift my confidence from supporting me and my opinions and invest it in them and their opinions" file. Gadz, putting it that way makes me feel silly for ever putting stock in what others think of me. I shall, effective immediately, BURN that file! lol... From here on out, me, myself and my own opinions are my primary investment. I can and will continue to look at, listen to, and give consideration to the opinions of others but ultimately it's my opinion that will carry the deciding vote. So what if that makes me self-righteous! What you think shouldn't be an issue for me, and conversely, what I think shouldn't be an issue for anyone so why name me?! My guess is that it's our egos that are ruffled, offended, hurt, or feel "shot down" and it's our egos that have the need to point a finger and say anything less than supportive or tolerant.
To each his/her own. Live and let live. Or perhaps as Paul McCartney says; "Live and Let Die" (which I take to mean; to live my life my way and let all the rest fall away without derailing or draining me). That works.