Home > Daily Special

More Righteous

By Michelle Lehnardt

Self-righteous behavior makes me cringe.

Ooh, I despise it all– holier than thou testimonies, finger-pointing, long Pharisee-like checklists….


Because beneath my carefully cultivated tolerant exterior lies a fierce tigress of superiority– an innate desire to compare my piety with others and justify my value in God’s eyes. And although I’ve worked hard to tame this savage face of my personality, sometimes the giant cat claws out of her cage and scratches the people I love.

A holier-than-thou attitude has always plagued religious people. A godly life requires sacrifice and constant analysis and since none of us measures up to “Be ye Therefore Perfect” we occasionally take comfort in “at least I’m better than…”

Mormonism is chock-full of rules to guide our behavior(do I need to make a list? no, you don’t want a list)– but sometimes we seem to want even more commandments, “What exactly can we do on a Sunday?” “Is diet Coke against the Word of Wisdom or not?” I suspect that some Mormon “rules” are similar to the “right way” to fold a dishtowel– traditions that were never meant to become law.

In truth, the Lord and the Prophets have given us quite a bit of leeway on how we live our religion; each of us makes choices aided by revelation and our own circumstances. Nearly a decade ago my sister confided that she had canceled her subscription to Newsweek because it seemed to feature a naked lady every week. I laughed at her and privately thought her decision prudish. But I was humbled when my issue showed up the next Tuesday with a feature on women’s health and several gratuitous photos of naked ladies. I kept my subscription, but vowed that I would never mock another person’s attempt at personal righteousness again.

And so we come to the first of several questions– how do we develop true goodness without falling into the trap of look-how-good-I-am? My friend Kit lends me some clues:

Last Sunday Kit woke and dressed her 3 tiny girls(3, 1 1/2 and 6 weeks) and made the 30 minute drive(that’s a long way in Utah!) to attend my 9 a.m. Sacrament Meeting. Her ward had canceled services due to the Draper Temple Dedication and she still wanted to take part in church.

It’s not an effort I would have made. With a cry of “Hallelujah!” and a great moan of relief, I would have slept late, stayed in my pajamas and enjoyed a free day. But as I basked in her little girls’ glorious smiles as they sang and cuddled with my family in sacrament meeting and their genuine excitement at attending Primary and Nursery, I saw that Kit had indeed chosen the better part(for her, not for everyone– most children are not that social). Inhaling her delicious baby in Relief Society, I pondered on Kit’s true righteousness– she is kind, good, loving, sweet, she studies the scriptures, prays and attends the temple. None of her actions are for the glory of men, but simply her efforts to live a godly and happy life.

And so I wonder– have my efforts to avoid self-righteousness inhibited my progression to true godliness?

When I see preachy attitudes in others, am I simply projecting my own weakness? Am I being self-righteous about being un-self-righteous?

How can we eliminate hypocritical behavior in ourselves? And how can we, as a people, develop greater tolerance for those in the “wicked world” and in our own church?

About Michelle Lehnardt

(Blog Team) I'm the kind of mom who drives through mud puddles, throws pumpkins off the roof and lets the kids move the ping-pong table into the kitchen for the summer. Despite (or probably, because of) my immaturity, my five sons and one daughter are happy, thriving, funny people. I'll climb a mountain with you, jump into a freezing lake hand-in-hand or just sit with you while you cry. I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ will heal the earth. Founder of buildyourteenager.com, scenesfromthewild.net and rubygirl.org.

58 thoughts on “More Righteous”

  1. I have a hard time with this too. I cringe when I hear people get up on Sunday and say things like, "OUR family has decided to do XYZ…" with the tacit implication that everyone should be doing that too. I also have a hard time when people in the church, through their comments in meetings, social gatherings, or otherwise, seem to be showing everyone how "righteous" they are by saying things like, "While I was studying my scriptures today…" or "I was pondering while grinding my own wheat, making my own clothes, canning my year's supply of peaches, and writing to the missionaries while my kids were napping…". If I truly examine myself, it's probably because I'm insecure about my own personal righteousness and I feel judged by these people because I don't "appear" to be as righteous as they are. To me, it's much more important to act like a good Mormon than to LOOK like a good Mormon. I guess I just wish we could all quietly go about living our religion and not have to make a big deal about it.

    I have a very good friend, who every time we eat out, regardless of the setting, quietly bows her head and blesses her meal. There are a lot of ways that she just goes about living the gospel because she loves it, not unlike your friend Kit, and I really admire her for that.

  2. Wow ladies! This is something. Seems like a couple weeks ago we were doing "throw up stories" – look at us now!

    This is a hard one. The only thing that I have been able to come up with is to do actions anyway – and the motives will come. If I personally wait for the right motives, I wil never do anything – it works in reverse.

    I have been very surprised and hurt to hear that I am a prude and a"holy" girl. That wasn't what I was planning on, at least in those words and with that tone. And how things are looked at: I wear skirts all the time, because of surgeries I have had that make jeans etc very hard to wear, not because i don't approve of pants. We don't have TV, because we don't feel we have the time, and like to use the $ for plays and such. I read scripture daily and my hymnal – well, I am sorry, I thot everyone was raised to do that. I read amish love stories, because I like them.

    Even tho these could be considered "good activities" it hurts when I find how others think of them. My problem personally comes when, growing up in a tight environment, I am surprised, still, when I find other lifestyles. I don't think I am as judgemental as surprised. I thot everyone lived the way I did.

    2 things I am very judgemental about – whiners, i mean the constant every time you see them, never have anything good…- ok, i know, enough traci – smile.

  3. Because so many of the details are left up to individuals to figure out for themselves (for which I am very grateful–I don't like to be micromanaged–even by God), I'm sure it all comes down to what is in our hearts. Thank heavens God knows our hearts better than the people who observe and sometimes make judgments about us.

    In my mind, if we are living the Gospel (however we live it) with our hearts turned to God and with a desire to love and obey God, we're on the right track. If we are living it by rote, with an eye turned to our neighbor and with a desire to impress or one-up our neighbor, we're missing the mark.

    I absolutely LOVE the hymn More Holiness Give Me. It captures in essence the type of person I want to become. (And isn't its message so much better than if it were "More Righteousness Give Me?")

  4. While there are people who live for praise and attention I think that many of our assessments about members come from our own insecurities. This is true for me because, sadly, I judge differently according to where I am spiritually/emotionally. If I am doing well myself I tend to admire those who I would have been threatened by in less healthy moments. It's wrong and I work on it.

    A couple years ago my husband and I started eating a lot healthier. We cut out most of the sugar and upped the whole foods. I lost 45lbs so everyone noticed and we got a lot of questions about our diet. We thought we were being discreet but people seemed to notice and be very critical when we didn't eat the cinnamon rolls at the ward breakfast or the brownies after meetings–as if our abstaining was condemning them. Once we invited a couple over for a barbecue and they responded, "No thanks. We eat normal food." Ouch.
    While some people treated us like freaks, others asked us if they could come over and get some ideas for their kitchen. The negative comments were hurtful but I started to understand that it was more about where they were rather than what we were doing.

    Getting along with and being a part of a ward family is a refiners fire for me.

  5. Sometimes I wonder how often the contributers read posts from others before preparing their posts. Either way this is a great post so closely following Dalene's series yesterday.

    You ask a lot of questions but it does seem that at the root of most of them is something judgemental. To make good decision we need good judgement. However when we turn that on someone and their efforts to improve themselves, especially with the intent to set ourselves above them, we've taken that judgement to something we're warned to avoid.

    Most of the time when I head down that road (and I do) the best antidote is to pray and focus on loving the individual. It's amazing how difficult it is to have judgemental thoughts at the same time you are focused on loving them. It just doesn't work.

  6. I really appreciate Alanna's comment, and agree wholeheartedly.

    Sometimes, I appreciate others sharing ideas as to how they have purified their lives a little better. When I appreciate it, I sometimes adopt their ideas, and sometimes not, per the Spirit's guidance.

    Other times I do not appreciate their comments. I feel that often it is because I am not as in tune with the Spirit as I should be. The Spirit can whisper to me whether or not I should adopt some of these Pharisaical ideas. If I begin feeling overwhelmed or resentful, I know I have ceased to listen to the Spirit and am listening only to my own pride.

    "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven . . . . Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit." Eccl 3-4

  7. I can see both sides of this in my own life.
    Often I don't want to share what my family is choosing (trying!)to do to bring us closer together, or follow the counsel of our church leaders. (FHE, family scripture study, family prayer,or even that we have no cable tv)

    But I also have to watch myself that I do not judge others who are doing better than I am at certain (many!)things. Often things that I wish I was doing better, so my judgement comes from my own insecurities or feelings of not doing well enough.

  8. It seems it's kind of like my kids telling each other what to do. I have to stop them and say, "you do what you know you are supposed to do, and leave everyone else alone, you are not the cop in this family".

  9. Michelle, this is the question you asked that got me: Have my efforts to avoid self-righteousness inhibited my progression to true godliness?

    This is tough, because some holy actions are not performed in secret (such as the prayer at the restaurant table, your friend driving to your ward) and may be interepreted as being done to be "seen of men." Of course, most holy actions are done in secret and no one knows anything about them.

    The trick is interpreting acts that are done in the open (or when we are openly told about private observance).

    Growing up, my grandparents were not active in the Church and we were careful to "not wear our religion on our sleeves" to minimize strain on the relationship. Coming from that background, I'm aware of how my actions affect others around me that may not share the same belief. But sometimes I'm left asking myself if that inhibits my progression to godliness. If I don't say a prayer in a restaraunt because I don't want to make others uncomfortable, is it a good thing because I'm trying to be considerate of their feelings or a bad thing because I'm letting outside influences determine my behavior?

    I'm not sure. Of course, being in tune with the Spirit is essential, but most of the time I'm just not that in tune and I stumble along.

  10. Ooh, I love your comments. As you said mommom, it comes down to being judgmental. And isn't the effort to be non-judgmental a life-long battle?

    Like you Melissa, I have NOT done things because I didn't want to appear self-righteous– but maybe those are actions I should have taken. And like you Traci, I have been accused of being a prude('cause in my heart I really am). It's funny to be on both sides of the equation. But I know I don't see myself clearly and I certainly don't see anyone else clearly— only God knows our true intentions.

  11. We don't discuss our posts ahead of time but it's interesting how it works out. Just this week I asked a question and when someone I perceive as self-righteous offered her opinion I almost tuned her out– but she was spot on, it was exactly what I needed to hear. Yet another humbling moment for me.

  12. I sooo get this issue. It's a very narrow place to walk between doing right by your family and appearing overly-pious.

    Sometimes, though, there is a tendency to disparage anything that threatens us. If I happen to be living a certain commandment while someone else is not, there isn't anything I can do about my appearance. I can only make sure not to judge, as was already mentioned.

    I worry that culturally, we are sliding into a least common denominator kind of mentality, which drags everyone down to the bottom together. We all have strengths and weaknesses that are different, so not being threatened by those differences is vital to our progression. I cannot apologize for choosing to live the commandments, but I certainly must apologize for the many commandments I struggle with.

    Conversely, I mustn't be threatened by those that are doing a better job where I fail, and I mustn't be critical of those that are struggling where I succeed.

    In the end, I just don't want to have to apologize for trying.

  13. I had to be very honest with myself for this one Michelle. Thanks a lot.

    I do an awesome job of avoiding the self-righteous judgment with those who are easy for me to love. I find those I serve in my ward, neighborhood and friendships as "easy". I see them as sincere and humble as they talk about their lives and accomplishments.
    On the other hand, those who I feel threatened by, appear to be more self-righteous and I feel that hyper-sensitivity to judge.
    I know it is me. I think for me, it's my inability to allow myself to be vulnerable and freely love, no matter what. For some reason, I want to withhold it from those who are more difficult. I know if I allow the Savior to teach me how to love these people without prejudice, I will be much freer, and at peace.

  14. Martha, you just articulated exactly how I feel. It's much easier to be non-judgmental with people we love and give them the benefit of the doubt. If I feel threatened by someone, I feel hyper sensitive around them. Thank you for your comment — you have given me something to think about.

  15. you're right Justine– we are in danger of sliding into the lowest common denominator. food for thought.

    I'm the same way Martha, my friends and people that I admire can do no wrong and I'm pretty good at showing grace towards strangers too. But if someone has hurt me or one of my children? Ooh, all I can see is black

  16. well, I think I've been on both sides – my family thinks we're goody-goodies because we don't do Rated R movies. and yet it drives me NUTS when my husband wants to put out the Ensigns right before home teachers come over.

    To me if you're doing things in private, keep em in private.

    But my husband thinks we should always be striving for the ideal and have the "ideal" image always around to inspire/uplift. So I can see where if you are reading your scriptures every day it's ok to talk about it – it reminds people it's possible, within their reach. So in certain ways this is ok, but I don't like it if it's fake (like w the Ensigns).

    On the other hand it's been said that our leaders our more concerned about our spirituality and worship than about the financial situation. I worked in Bednar's office for 2 years – and they were pretty goody-goody. He didn't brag about it but he wasn't shy about the fact that when his kids/spouses all get back together they all sit down and as a family have a scripture discussion about things they've learned from their personal study lately. He has HIGH expectations. And part of that he sites is the scripture about HF will give us "commandments not a few". These are not commandments from GAs or the Church – but maybe the SPirit will whisper that you should stop watching TV on Sunday or wear your Sunday clothes all sunday. This is a commandment from the Lord for YOU. And you can't judge others who have not been given that commandment.

    Another thing that happened @ BYUI was fights over the dress code. I remember there were people who broke the rules just so they wouldn't be one of the people who kept the rules. And there were others that judged others for doing so. Both in the wrong? yes!

  17. I'll be honest…I can't stand the conformity some people think they have to adopt to appear pious. It drives me bonkers. I certainly stick out like a sore thumb to begin with… being an Asian Mormon in my neighborhood…but I also like to laugh at everything. Sometimes I make innuendo jokes just to see who I can be friends with. I have to be myself. And myself is someone who is imperfect, but who tries…and who accepts those that are working at it just like me.

    When Desperate Housewives first started (years back) I handed out invitations to a finale, and chocolate tasting party at my home… I did the invite handing out at Church. (you guys are thinking… this has disaster written all over it don't you…) I actually asked who watched the show before giving an invite. One of the ladies happened to be a fun-loving, soccer-playing supermom… her hubby was in the Bishopric… and when I asked her she immediately crowed "WHAT? That's a SINNER show…sin sin sin".

    I was so surprised I laughed…heartily and did not extend an invite.

    Why is it that there are women ashamed about stuff like this? We all do things for what we think is okay for our life. For some, like another lady in my ward… she refuses to go back to a hair dresser because he's too hot. I actually thought this was too funny/prudish…but my husband disagreed… he said that if she thought it would be a temptation for her – then she did the right thing.

    I think we are all different. We have different tolerances/weaknesses. Maybe someone else could go to her hairdresser and be totally fine with it…

    It's like when I bring up I drink tea… and I have to add that it's NOT caffeinated… and then I get the judgments… from women who are seriously addicted to their diet coke. I never judge them for that…and here they are judging me… my personal thing is never to be addicted to anything…even if I'm exhausted…but that's me.

    I find that in my ward there are so many women competing to look like the perfect Mormon woman, that they shun anyone they don't think fits into the image they want to project. You know, the status climbers – the ones that move into a ward and make friends who are only in leadership positions. Or the ones that only befriend new people who carry a certain bag, or have a certain career… ack.

    I had a friend once that said she stopped being Catholic…and shunned all religion because she'd see people who were not nice people – sitting there in Church pretending they were stellar.

    I suppose that's why I gravitate to those of us on the outside of these silly cliques… I like to embrace those that don't fit into the mold… because I know what it's like.

    Sorry… long comment… this has been on my mind a long time.

  18. We have to be really careful on judging on both sides. I have had several members of my family leave the church because as what they perceive to be "hyprocrites" in the church. Yet they turn around and judge and critize the members as much as they felt they have been judged and critized themselves.
    Thank you Justine, I loved your comment.

  19. you have such a good point Camille. It's a sword that cuts both ways.

    I loved elliesmom and Queen Scarlett's very different comments– thanks elliesmom for those insights into Elder Bednar's life. I think we'd agree that his level of righteousness is something we all aspire to. And the truth is it takes work to get there.

    But Queen Scarlett, no one should look down on drinking herbal tea! C'mon!

    Let's face it, true righteousness shines forth.

  20. Queen Scarlett, you made me laugh.

    I live in a very, very wealthy area. My ward probably has several millionaires. The stock market woes were more discussed over the pulpit than I thought they would be. Now, my husband and I are definitely comfortable, but I still wouldn't consider us "rich" — not with the multi-million dollar houses around the corner. I have problems listening to my sister gripe or make snide remarks about our money situation. We are definitely rich compared to her family. Sometimes I have to remind myself that people make judgemental remarks out of frustration and jealousy. I still love my sister and we hang out from time to time, but I never, *ever* complain about money or "things" around her. I choose to be more self-disparaging around her than I prefer, but it seems to keep my finances out of the radar.

    Another perspective,…I teach Gospel Doctrine, and I always thought (when younger — I'm 30) that Gospel Doctrine teachers were uber-spiritual and did things like remember to pray every morning and they had intense scripture study daily. Now, I just assume that the class is as forgetful and mistake-making as I am, and that they have the same desire to improve. I find that if I smile more, help more and complain less that people are put more at ease ('cause honestly, I have a pretty easy life when you compare me with others) and they open up to the spirit. Our best gospel discussions are when I'm brave enough to share my own failures and shortcomings as examples. I think it really helps people to hear first-hand that they aren't the only ones who feel like they fall short.

  21. I have this problem. My husband is more righteous than I am (at least in certain areas) and sometimes his good choices make me feel bad. Because I wouldn't have made that choice, but I probably should have 🙂 So, I poke fun at him. It ends up making neither of us very happy.

    I've decided that usually when I laugh at someone's uber-righteous choices, it is because I need to be making those same choices.

  22. I have a cousin who was so sickeningly pious he would make you want to gag. My family is not adverse to drinking a Coke leaded or non-caffein – and he would give any one of them a serious sermon for 'sinning' in this manner. Anything would set him off. Then we come to find out he was arrested. The charge? Incest with his two daughters. He wouldn't drink a Coke…but THIS is what he would do on the side? How many puritans like that do we have in the church. Scary!

  23. Here is what I have a problem with: People who act one way around co-workers and some people, and act another way at church. For example; I work with a man who was a Bishop and he hired a few of his young men to help do some work. I once asked one of them if he was a good Bishop, and this young man said that he was a much better Bishop than Boss. This is a man that doesn't have a problem swearing and acting like quite the jerk at work, and then turns around and leads a congregation! Come on!

    I, like Camille, have family members who have left the church due to what they see as hypocrisy, and yet they turn it around and harshly judge us who are trying. It is a hard thing trying to be an example while drinking my Coke. It's a hard thing to explain that we are all trying to perfect ourselves and that we are all at different stages. If a requirement to be a Mormon were to be perfect – there would be no Mormons.

    My mind can't seem to get out everything I think about this, but I like the discussion here. Lots to think about.

  24. This is such an interesting topic.

    Here's my take on what drives the comparison/judgment thing — it's so much 'easier' at the outset to have a sense of where we are in our journey by looking sideways.

    But part of faith is to have "an actual knowledge that the course of life one is pursuing is acceptable to the Lord (see Heb. 11: 4)" as it says in the BD. I know for me, that when I get into the comparison/judgment frame of mind, I'm looking for mortal assurances (faulty though they are, they still fill a need for reassurance).

    I have found that when I am feeling confident before God as it were, in this faith-filled kind of way (what a process, and so often I am not there, but it's what I'm working for) I am less apt to be pious, less apt to judge, and less apt to worry so much about what others think about why I'm doing what I'm doing. My hope is to get to a point, too, where I would be in tune enough when I could know when to share and when to be silent. I'm still not there yet.

    Justine, I loved loved loved your comment, btw. I think I remember Pres. Hinckley once saying that he worried that we were becoming too much like the world in some ways. I think the more we go on, the more weird we will end up looking if we are holding to our covenants. It requires a sort of humble fearlessness to try to stay unspotted from the world, whatever that means. BUT that also, I think, is such a process, and in many ways, so individual, as others have said.

  25. m&m– as I was writing this I thought, "I hope someone will point out the importance of feeling confident before God." When we look to Christ as our example we are always humble– only when we look "sideways" do we err.

  26. Melissa, I love your honesty! "I’ve decided that usually when I laugh at someone’s uber-righteous choices, it is because I need to be making those same choices." That's me.

    Erin– I bet you're a great GD teacher!

  27. I also have a hard time when people in the church, through their comments in meetings, social gatherings, or otherwise, seem to be showing everyone how “righteous” they are by saying things like, “While I was studying my scriptures today…” or “I was pondering while grinding my own wheat, making my own clothes, canning my year’s supply of peaches, and writing to the missionaries while my kids were napping…”. If I truly examine myself, it’s probably because I’m insecure about my own personal righteousness and I feel judged by these people because I don’t “appear” to be as righteous as they are. To me, it’s much more important to act like a good Mormon than to LOOK like a good Mormon. I guess I just wish we could all quietly go about living our religion and not have to make a big deal about it.

    (emphasis mine)

    I'm one of those people whose comments usually include a brief background as to when/how my line of thinking came about, if there's such a specific incident I can tie it to. It might have been from scripture study, when I'm driving down the road with screaming toddlers, reading some article or talk, it could have been when I was sobbing on the floor wondering how I can go on living, it might be when I was fulfilling a church canning assignment. I'd never thought of my doing so as trying to appear more righteous than anyone else, so your words here really surprise me. I'd thought of it as sharing a little piece of me, but I wonder now if it's simply more irritating or irrelevant instead.

    A sincere question–why do you think there is a difference in how your friend's actions vs. others' comments affect you?

  28. Like everyone seems to be saying, this one is so hard for me! But something I have been learning so much about lately is PERSONAL revelation. Which means that for some people it really is important for their spirituality to not drink caffeinated soda, and for other people, it really doesn't matter. It is so easy to assume that there is only ONE way to live righteously, but I think there are many, many ways. But I always tend to think "well, this is right for me, therefore it is right for everyone else." It is such an easy and dangerous trap to fall in to. So I just have to look at people's choices and remind myself that everyone is doing what is best for them (and even if they aren't– it's not my business). I don't know why that is so difficult!

  29. How can we eliminate hypocritical behavior in ourselves?
    This one is SO difficult, I think. I mean, to some extent we have to be different than we are when we can and try to maintain it even when we can't be as different as we'd like to be. It's the name of the game in becoming perfect. So, is it hypocritical if we're our best self at church because it's only 3 hours out of the day and then struggle the rest of the day/week/month/and year? I think it's all in the intent of our hearts! And no other person near us (even those who live or have lived with us) can judge that!
    I know I talk about things that have been uplifting and helpful in my life often because I hope that my hope might encourage others (for I certainly have benefited from theirs' when mine was down in the dumps). It has rarely (ever??) been in my mind to share those things with others so that they would think me "so righteous" or something. I've wondered, afterward, if they've thought such things sometimes and that makes me feel sad. But I can't help trying to do what I feel is right even if others misinterpret my behavior. And that's the key… maybe? To keep on trying when accusations are made. To keep on talking when there are those who are trying to silence us (if we really believe the words we speak are meant to be shared!).

    And how can we, as a people, develop greater tolerance for those in the “wicked world” and in our own church?
    As I love myself more, I feel greater love and tolerance for others. I'm a super fat chick (seriously, I'm morbidly obese)and have MANY faults. But I love myself more now than I ever have in my life. The only reason I can think of for this is that I really REALLY believe Heavenly Father loves me, warts and all, now as I never have in my life before. (Figurative on the warts, I don't think I have any of those.) I'm still, sometimes, surprised by negative things I learn about others from them, but I have an easier time loving and accepting the people perpetrating the negative things because, I think, I'm more accepting and loving of me.
    And the Commandment to love thy neighbor as thyself comes to mind. I'm 33 and I just realized last year that this is a sneakly little (HUGE!) double Commandment. I have to love myself FIRST and then love others that way. DUH, right? I mean, plenty of people have said such a thing to me in the course of my life. But, for whatever reason, the weight of it only just started to sink in at the very end of 2006. But it makes SO much sense and sheds SO much light on the things I've shared in my experience of accepting and loving others.

  30. You are RIGHT ON with that hymn. It always seemed to me like an "individual striving" message that I so often need. I am tired of comparing myself to others when, deep down, I know the Lord loves me just the way I am. Right now. Warts and all!

  31. Tea,
    I've been thinking about your comment and trying to pinpoint EXACTLY what my point was…I do enjoy a personal story in a talk or a testimony for the most part — "I was reading the scriptures and I realized…" But I have a friend who often interjects how she has been "righteous" in casual conversation — we're chatting about everyday things and she mentions that she read her scriptures that day or that she was planning on going to the temple that week. I don't know how to exactly describe it, but it's like she has to show me how good she's being. Essentially I am judging myself through her eyes. I think everyone is entitled to personal revelation about how they should worship, but I feel in some ways that she expects me (and everyone else) to do it the way that she does.

  32. To me this isn't so much about hypocrisy, as much as attitiude. I have no problem with someone being righteous. I'd like to be a lot more righteous myself. I just can't stand the self-righteous attitude. Sometimes when people make comments about reading their scriptures it's a genuine, humble story. You can tell the difference between that and someone who is dropping hints. The boastful Mormon is what bothers me. Someone who announces, "I don't see rated R movies", is a lot different than someone who says, "well, I've been working really hard to not see rated R movies. It was so hard not to see Slumdog Millionaire, but I guess I'll get blessings for it."

    My parents always prayed in restaurants and I HATED it. Particularly because they would make it so obvious. Bow their heads, fold their arms. That to me is being self-righteous. Just close your eyes and say a prayer. Don't make it into such a production number. When I lived in Utah I would always roll my eyes when I'd see people doing "obnoxious praying" in restaurants. It's one step away from getting up on the rameumtom and thanking the Lord they're not like all the wicked Mormons.

    I don't come across prissy, self-righteous members of the Church as much now that we're not in Utah.

  33. Like Tea, I am truly surprised by this comment. While I do feel insecure around people who can grind all their own wheat and sew their own clothes, I would never assume that their comment was meant to "one-up" me. And I've said something like "when I was reading the scriptures this morning I noticed…" hundreds of times. Never, ever did I intend it to intimdate or insult anyone. Nor did I think I was so wonderful for having done so. I just assumed I was finally in a safe place (unlike work or school) where I was free to be myself and share my spiritual side/thoughts. I read this comment with great dismay–how many people think I'm self righteous for comments I made in an effort to build relationships?

  34. Could it be, perhaps, not exactly something your friend says, but rather a composite of other non-verbal and situational cues that makes you receive this message from her? Maybe your self righteous friend transmits voice inflections or body language differently from someone else who says exactly the same thing…

  35. The Utah factor does seem to bring out that self-righteousness more. I live in Provo and I had some neighbors who, under the direction of the husband, would stand in a circle on their front lawn and say their family prayer before the kids went to school–yikes! Their children weren't allowed to eat chocolate because it had caffeine in it. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that I always took their righteousness with a grain of salt because they seemed to flaunt it. Ironically, the husband ended up having an affair with his assistant and leaving his wife and children. I wonder now if his commitment to the Gospel was more about outward appearances. I think that humility, which this man seemed to lack, is one of the indicators of true righteousness. I've certainly seen my share of self-righteous behavior, including my own, and whenever I'm feeling self-righteous, I'm not feeling humble or close to the Spirit.
    On the other hand, my mother was less-active for many years, and she loved to criticize self-righteous behavior in active Church members, while lauding her own "tolerance" and acceptance of others' imperfections. I came to see that her pride in her lack of self-righteousness and her harsh judgment of those who were striving to live the Gospel were really a reflection of her own feelings of guilt and an attempt to justify her behavior. Like many of you have said, often our own insecurities and failings make us feel defensive and critical of others' righteousness–self-righteous or not–and it says more about where we are in our progression than where others are. I have to be so careful not to be self-righteous, or self-righteous about my lack of self-righteousness–both of these attitudes involve a lack of humility and criticism of others. Like M&M and Michelle M. said, it's when we look sideways, when we compare ourselves to others, that we get into trouble.

  36. My husband is a master at being righteous without being self-righteous. I think it's a gift. He's just good without being goody-goody.

    I am his opposite that way. But I'm learning; it's an acquired skill. I don't mean to be self-righteous, I truly don't, but I can't count the number of times I am certain my ways have come across as self-righteous to people. Probably hundreds on my mission alone. Another few dozen the summer I sold pest control.

    I know I'm that way, and I think I've gotten better since I got married, and all I can do is just hope for mercy. I hope that people will see my heart, and know that even though I may seem self-righteous sometimes, underneath that is a deep desire to be righteous, and I am trying as hard not to judge others as I hope they are trying not to judge me.

  37. The scariest part of this discussion to me is:

    Some women comment on Segullah posts using scriptures and GA quotes. Does this come across as self righteous to other sisters who prefer personally based answers?

  38. I've been thinking about this the entire day. I've been examining myself and haven't like what I've seen. I used to judge my in-laws family because they didn't read scriptures everyday like my family did. Now, as a mother myself, we struggle with reading everyday. I judged my husband's brother for not serving a mission. My judgments were wrong and cruel. While I never vocally expressed them, I thought them and the damage was done.
    I'm trying harder not to judge people's righteousness. Instead I'm examining my own life and looking at my own weaknesses and trying to improve myself. That feels a lot better than placing people on a graph of personal righteousness.
    Thank you for the thought-provoking post and comments.

  39. I definitely fall in the "self-righteous about not being self-righteous" category. I have too many foibles of my own to take inventory of anyone else's. Maybe that's why I don't like it when I hear other people taking inventory. So then I take inventory of the fact that they are taking inventory. (The thing is, when you're judging others, the beam in your own eye is not so easy to see.)

    Fortunately, I live in a ward filled with people who seem pretty grounded in the live-and-let-live mentality that I prefer. So my vice of judging the judgers is mostly at bay. But when my friends (particularly the ones who have moved to Utah, I'm sorry to say) tell me they or their children are being judged by ward members, it drives me crazy. That should not happen in an LDS environment. (And see…there it goes again…my judging of judgers problem swings into full gear.) Now you see the pattern. I feel like spouting scriptures (self-righteously) about motes and beams or casting the first stones. Sheesh.

    As you can see, I have not conquered this issue. But your post reminds me that I am a judger, too, and I am working on it.

  40. QueenScarlett I think we would be GREAT friends! I grew up in a place with few LDS people and I used to say I was too good for the bad kids and too bad for the good kids. What's a gal to do? 🙂 I take comfort in the fact that the Lord knows me and He knows my heart.

  41. panda- I think scriptures and quotes from GAs are ALWAYS appropriate in the comments here. Seeking righteous counsel is NOT being self-righteous.

    I so appreciate the comments that both holier-than-thou and more-tolerant-than-thou attitudes are dangerous to our spiritual progression.

  42. It is a tricky line sometimes, though. Where is the line between standing up for something you believe in, and shoving that belief down everyone else's throat? Is is merely perspective?

    I would imagine the Spirit has a great deal to do with it.

  43. i've definitely said things that have come off as self-righteous before. you know, the times where you say something and then there's a moment of silence where you think, "whoops!" and everyone else thinks, "what a jerk!" i really wish in those moments, i'd think to say, "wow, that came out really self-righteous, sorry guys!"

    at the same time i was raised in a family where we didn't talk about spiritual things like we should have, and recently when i started writing family letters, i had to fight the urge to keep things out of them. but, i've decided that those things are important to me, and if they played a part in our week, then i'm going to write about it, dang it!

    anyway, i'm one of those that probably comes off as self-righteous more than i get mad at other people for being self-righteous… i apologize to all.

  44. We have started praying in restaurants. Not because we're trying to be righteous, but because my 3-year-old insists we pray or she won't eat. So we just quietly say a prayer and move on. I certainly hope other patrons don't think we're thinking we're super holy.

  45. As a kid I remember openly holding up a friend's father as a symbol of righteousness–he didn't do any of the "sins" MY dad did, like the occasional curse or yell.

    Years later I found out that right around the time I had been idolizing him he was going through excommunication for some incredibly inappropriate actions while serving as Bishop.

    Big humbling lesson that made me love my father even more.

  46. I don't really know what to say to some of these comments. We do lots of the things that some have pointed out as being self righteous, e.g. we don't drink coke, we don't watch 18 films (or R in the states), we do read our scriptures and try to pray as a family, we don't watch t.v. on a Sunday etc. However, we don't do these things to appear good, we do them because to us they are important and we feel they make a difference. We have made certain choices for our family and we stick to them. We don't brag about them. I have lots of friends that drink coke or watch films that we wouldn't, but we don't think any less of them. I hope that they wouldn't think any less of us because of our choices either. Each to their own. I think most people are just trying their best to live their lives how they feel is best. I know that we do family prayers but am not great on my own personal prayres for instance. We all have areas to work on. Please don't think I am self righteous for trying.

  47. Amen–please don't think I'm self-righteous for trying to do something that may not be important to your spirituality (and that I'm not looking down on you for not doing) but that I've decided is to mine.

  48. Dalene, I love that you focused on the state of our heart and who we look to whether we're on the right track or not. I just gave a talk a couple weeks ago on "Humble Yourself and Trust in God" and preparing it helped me see again the pattern of the scriptures that show it is by the state of our heart that we are judged. "A broken heart and contrite spirit" is what we're asked to have. Being self-righteous doesn't really display the kind of soft, broken-open type heart I think God is trying to encourage us to find.

  49. Alanna, it was interesting to hear how people reacted to your decision to eat healthier. It is a testament of how uncomfortable we all our with our own inadequacies and insecurities. I applaud you for making healthier choices in eating and feel sad that people have said hurtful things ("we eat normal"!!!). I've found as I try to live the gospel more fully, I can see how others can be threatened by the good choices I make if they are comparing themselves (as I have to be careful with the same thing). I love that you were doing it discreetly–but that people were still watching. Isn't that how it is!

  50. It's so interesting how different people react to commandments–especially ones like BYU dress code/honor code. I have been out of BYU for very long (almost 20 yrs.), but happened upon some photos of people I used to associate with. I'm not even sure if it is still running there, but I was involved somewhat with The Student Review, when I was there. Anyway, it seems like many of the staff were pushing-the-envelope type of people and now it is sad to see how few of them remain on the path paved by commandments. We do have to make righteous judgments, and this is surely a thin and narrow path.

  51. Just think that they are sharing something that was personally inspiring to them and don't see it as trying to one-up someone.

    Humility is key to living the gospel.

  52. Great point, Kay. I've had people get mad at me for certain dietary choices we made when our children were little, even though they had nothing to do with our alleged interpretation of the Word of Wisdom. It's kind of sad.

    Yes, there are people who preach and point fingers in self-righteousness at people they believe are less obedient than they. But there are also people who point fingers and condemn what they perceive as self-righteousness in those who also simply trying to do their best with the same freedom of choice and interpretation these people hold dear.

    Frankly I wish we'd all stop pointing fingers at one another and start embracing each other with more love, tolerance and understanding.

  53. Today in Testimony meeting a father got up and shared an experience at family scripture reading and what it has meant to him, but he had to preface it with they didn't do it every night, and sometimes it was frustrating and difficult, etc. I realized that he was trying desperately to share a personal experience without sounding self-righteous like their family was perfect just because they were trying to read scriptures. Poor guy.
    I wish there was a middle ground so people don't have to worry so much about people judging them for being self righteous.

  54. Kay and jks– you make SUCH valid points. We shouldn't shy away from true righteousness. This is where I think the middle ground lies: we should be as righteous as we can, we should applaud others efforts at goodness– but we should not lecture or condemn those who don't live up(or down) to our standards.

    example– I always go to church when I'm traveling. For me, it's a huge testimony builder to hear and see the gospel in other places— but when a friend or family member tells me that they don't go to church on vacation I don't give it a second thought.

    Genealogy? I don't have a testimony of that yet. But I respect those that do.

    Did that sound self-righteous? To me it's the middle ground.


Leave a Comment