Reminding Myself That Self-Righteousness Is Not Helpful
In search of a politics of wisdom and compassion, nurtured through mindfulness and lovingkindness
Even while intending to cultivate equanimity and spaciousness, I notice how easy it is to fall into self-righteousness and indignation as soon as I start thinking about the things I don’t like in the world, especially when they seem to stem from decisions made by human beings. I catch myself “personalizing” something that is actually much bigger than individual villains, even though specific persons are playing various, sometimes awful, roles in what is happening at any one moment.
What come to mind are the very real injustices, social inequities, and exploitation of huge numbers of people and natural resources, often disguised through the misappropriation and corruption of language, so that it is hard to discern what is really going on because words themselves have become a kind of surreal newspeak; the boundless harm that comes from waging endless wars to achieve dubious ends by nefarious means; the sense that those in various positions of power and responsibility are often willing to lie outright, dissimilate, fabricate, coerce, manipulate, deny, cover up, buy allegiances, rationalize whatever they are doing, and do whatever they feel necessary to achieve those dubious ends; the increasingly enormous concentration of power and influence and wealth in the hands of a small number of people and multinational corporate giants who often act as if their interests in power and growth and profits are above all others’ and even above the law.
Then I remember: Even if all that is true to a degree—and I emphasize to a degree—there are at least two problems with my self-righteous attitude: the self part and the righteousness part.
I notice that I never feel self-righteous in response to tornados and hurricanes. I never feel self-righteous about the casualties, destruction, and loss caused by flooding or naturally occurring forest fires or earthquakes despite the enormous toll they can take. Emotions do arise in response to such occurrences, yes, including great sadness, empathy, compassion, and a strong desire to help in some way. But not self-righteousness. Why? I guess because there is no one I can…