Beware of self-righteousness

HINTS AND TRACES - Fr. Roy Cimagala - The Freeman

We have to be most wary of this spiritual anomaly that can come to us anytime. It usually takes advantage of our natural inclination to seek the truth, the good, and the beautiful in life --in short, what is right-- and corrupts that inclination because it is not properly rooted on the ultimate source of righteousness who is God himself. It’s so blinding that it can even assume the appearance of holiness.

Most prone to this illness are those with some special endowments in life, be it intelligence, talents, wealth, fame, power, health, beauty, etc. When all these gifts are not clearly grounded and oriented toward God, the source of all righteousness, the problem starts.

This is the irony of ironies because one can earnestly pursue the path of holiness and does practically everything to be good and holy, and yet ends up the opposite of what is intended. That’s when one practically has the trappings of goodness and holiness and yet misses the real root of righteousness who is God.

This was well personified by the Pharisees, scribes, and other elders during the time of Christ. They preferred to stick to their own ideas of goodness and holiness, their own laws and traditions, and went all the way not only to be suspicious of Christ, always finding fault in him, but also to finally crucify him.

A passage from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans can serve as a graphic description of this sad phenomenon. “Claiming to be wise, they became fools,” (1,22) he said. The immediate context in which these words were spoken may be different, but they still can be applicable to the present state of the world where we can now see so much foolishness masquerading as wisdom.

When people abandon God or alienate themselves from him, there’s no way but to get into all kinds of anomalies, no matter how clever and sophisticated the rationalizations are. Such sophistication foists falsehoods as truth.

Nowadays, there is so much surge of self-righteousness that the source of what is good and evil, fair and unfair, human and inhuman is not anymore God the Creator, but us. The distinction is not anymore made by God, but by us. We are now in the world of subjectivism.

Everything is now based on our views and opinions, our preferences and current understanding of things. If we can manage to have some kind of consensus, then that’s it! We can now consider as good what actually is inherently bad, and we make a world of make-believe that sooner or later will burst.

People now follow their own light, a very beguiling and unreliable light. They have forgotten what Christ said: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Jn 8,12)

Self-righteousness is precisely when one derives his goodness from his own self, and not from God. It shows itself in many ways: quick to judge, brand people and condemn, slow to understand others and to forgive, not wanting to be corrected, being highly opinionated and wanting to have the last word always, to dominate others, etc.

We need to be vitally united with God through prayer, sacrifice, the sacraments, deepening in the doctrine of our faith, development of virtues, etc. --all of these together-- to make our reason and truth share in the very wisdom and life of God and avoid that vicious self-righteousness.

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