As I have observed this attitude, certain truths have become evident. The insidious nature of this condescending behavior seeks to justify contempt, while maintaining a guise of innocence. This shame-based perception challenges the genuineness of other people, while defiantly judging their motives. The sad reality is that individuals who practice self-righteousness often hide behind a cloak of denial. Their denial is cultivated by ignorance and is often guided by arrogance. Ignorance is justified through criticism.
When people in positions of authority use self-righteousness to control, manipulate and dominate a spiritual abuse occurs. Emotional and spiritual abuse are used to hook the individual into subverting themselves and submitting to the leadership system. Spiritual abuse instigates and promotes alienation. Creativity is stymied and motivation is hindered. Fear drives individuals to believe that the self-righteous leader (s) alone holds the answers.
As a bi-product, faith is subjected to the agenda of leader. Faith outside that agenda is discouraged. The ability to trust the process is traded for the judgment of the leader. Compliance is expected. Those who question the leadership are considered rebellious. Independent thought is chided and scorned.
Once the individual complies with such a leadership system, shame is deployed to motivate performance. When such a relationship is established, the individual will be encouraged to “obey” or suffer more abuse. More, becomes the active motivation to appease the onslaught of shaming messages. Striving becomes the way of relating to oneself and to the self-righteous leader.
I have encountered these types of leaders throughout my life. When I became aware of the abuse, I made the decision to discover why I found myself hooked into these types of leaders. After I did my research it became apparent that these leaders did not have my best interests in mind. Instead, they sought to manipulate and exploit me to fulfill their own agendas. Once I realized that shame was at the foundation of their motivation, I sought to understand how shame was impacting my life.
I came to recognize the difference between guilt and shame. Through my research, I discovered that guilt occurs when someone has made a mistake. This sense of guilt can be relieved through making an amends or changing a behavior. Shame on the other hand, gives the message that the person does not make mistakes, but is a mistake. When one feels as though they are a mistake, a lingering sense of despair is experienced.
When leaders seek to practice self-righteousness, the impact upon those under their leadership can be devastating. Not only will they have to carry their own sense of shame, but also the shame of the self-righteous leader (s).
With time, I began to understand that my sense of shame was based upon a lie. This lie told me that my good was not good enough. Through my process, I have come to believe that my good is good enough. This has been accomplished through a lot of hard work and by separating myself from people (including leaders) who live by a shame script. Therefore, I am able to avoid shame transfers that are used to control, manipulate and dominate.
In the final analysis, I have come to realize that — self-righteousness and self-righteous behavior — does little to encourage, motivate, empower or provide hope to the individual.
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