Here they come. Down your street. They know what's right and they will not only tell you about it, they will also use all methods at their disposal to enforce their will upon you. Their opinions are fact. Their beliefs are incontrovertible. Their ideas are truth and you must accept that truth. If you do not, they get very frustrated. How can you not see their correctness?
Self-righteousness comes in all shapes, sizes and flavors. It is a sickness of the collective reality that causes individuals with strong beliefs to band together to make those beliefs as universal as possible. It may have its foundation in interpretations of their religion or it may simply revolve around social standards.
How do I know if I am being self-righteous or just opinionated?
Take the example of gay marriage, an issue on which many people have very strong opinions. A man may sit on his porch and growl about how much he detests homosexuality and wants nothing to do with homosexuals. He is not being self-righteous, he simply has a strong opinion. When he declares himself better than those who desire such a marriage, he is being self-righteous. When he takes to a public forum or joins together with others who share his view to denounce gay marriage and attempt to have it banned, he is being self-righteous. It is a matter that has no real impact on his own life. He has decided his opinion outweighs that of those who seek to enter into a gay marriage. That is self-righteousness. If someone tells him he has to host an all-male gangbang at his home every two months, that is a different nest of hornets.
All persons are entitled to an opinion on any topic that crosses their field of vision. To say that anyone who disagrees with that opinion is wrong is to wear the mantle of self-righteousness. There is no single set of self-righteous people, they come from all sides of every street. Usually the key word is "should." You "should" give an hour of your time every week to charity work. You "should" support the war effort. You "shouldn't" smoke cigarettes in public. You "shouldn't" bet money in casinos. You "shouldn't" eat meat or wear fur. You "should" go to church every Sunday. You "shouldn't" have sex with someone unless you're married to them.
How To Avoid Self-Righteousness:
It is weakness that requires others to follow your lead. Your belief system is valid. Everyone is right. Within your own universe and your own reality, all these things that you believe in strongly are true. They are true for you and others who believe as you do, but opinions are not universal truth and everything is subjective.
In order to avoid the traps of self-righteousness, be conscious of your beliefs. Hold to those beliefs and stand firm in your convictions. Believe in yourself. Now, remember, that other people are doing the same thing. If you seek to trump their beliefs with yours, then you have waded into the shallow end of the pool of self-righteousness.
If you believe in something strongly enough, you don't need anyone to follow except your own spirit. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have friends who understand.
Look at my pretty nose. It is in the air!
Sometimes self-righteousness is more subtle than someone banging you over the head and telling you not to kiss people with sex organs similar to yours or that you are some kind of sinner bound for the depths of Hell. Sometimes it is as simple as someone giving you a disgusted look when they see what albums you are buying at the record store. Their musical tastes are superior to yours and you are simply wasting your money because you have no idea what good music is. What you like isn't important. What someone else decides is "good" is what matters.
Part of my personal religious beliefs is that I want to own as little as possible. I am just borrowing time in this frame of existence, and I do not want to accumulate material things. I live in an apartment and will never own a house. Real estate ownership is simply something I do not want to be involved in, just as I want nothing to do with the stock market or any kind of investments. This is simply something that comes from the core of my personal beliefs and I would never impose those ideals on anyone. In fact, I'll be the first to tell you that I'm crazy.
I've had people stammering and slamming their fists down on tables telling me that I need to own a home instead of renting. They'll go through a forty-five minute dissertation of why they feel it is better, absolute proof of the financial value of property ownership. They miss the point. They don't listen when I tell them I do not like to own things. This makes no sense to them and they will go on about mortgages versus rent payments, equity and income tax options. We're talking apples and oranges and they won't relent because they are possessed with a need to force me to see that they are "right." In the end they usually call me stupid and tell me that I'm going to be poor all my life and I say, "exactly." This frustrates them even more because they are right and I am wrong.
Share your beliefs.
I don't know how it was a hundred years ago, because I was probably wearing a corset, but these days people seem to be afraid to bring their beliefs and opinions to light unless they are self-righteous about them. When you believe your opinions to be fact, and you've collected every piece of evidence to support that, you feel pretty comfortable telling everyone how it is. When your beliefs are out of the mainstream, either in general or in the group setting, you worry about being told you are wrong or silly. My beliefs do not allow me to gamble, simply because I am convinced that I can see slivers of the future in the present and to gamble dilutes that ability by putting personal gain in the driver's seat. When people have office pools or buy lottery tickets and ask if I want in, I simply say, "No, thanks." If I were self-righteous I would try to stop them from gambling as well, but I have no problem with other people doing as they will.
What happens is that we only rarely share the fabric of our soul, the fundamental beliefs that shape who we are. The exchange of ideas is stunted when only the mainstream and popularly accepted ideas are talked about. If you tell people you are a very spiritual person, which I am, then they ask you what church you belong to. If you tell them you don't believe in churches as buildings built by men, then more often than not they will say, "You aren't spiritual if you don't go to church." Religion as an individual system doesn't compute. "Well, I go to church every Sunday," they say, implying that this makes them better than you, even though they are screwing their sister-in-law on the side and they got that DVD recorder for free when it "fell off the back of a truck."
Anyone truly secure in their beliefs doesn't need to validate them by imposing them on others.
Everyone is right.
At the core of my own belief system are those three words. Someone once asked me, "So, does that mean if that asshole at the gas station pisses me off, then I am right to kill him?" Not at all. That is being self-righteous. Your displeasure with another person's actions gives you the right to take their life, or even to injure them? You have just put your beliefs ahead of theirs, therefore he is wrong and you are right, so you've invalidated the words. You can go to another gas station. When the pieces don't fit, it is time to move along. Too many people stick around past the stroke of midnight trying to change the holes so the pieces fit.
You can be on the road or you can be in the parking lot. You can find your way and continue your journey, or you can stand and fight over nothing. When you fight over opinions and beliefs, you fight over nothing. You're better off fighting over the last piece of chicken in the bucket, at least you'll have a chance of getting something. Share your beliefs, believe as you will, but afford the same grace to others. You are completely right. Within your own reality. So, enjoy being right and let everyone else be right as well.
The irony is intentional.