Most of us try to do the right things in life if only so we can look ourselves in the mirror everyday and like who we see. None of us wants to live with guilt, regrets or remorse. But, there is a group of people out there who feel morally superior to everyone else and think their above the average person in their ability to know right from wrong. These people are the holier than thou’s group. They see themselves as much fairer, more self-sacrificing, more ethical, more concerned for the welfare of others. I know you’ve already run into some along the way and haven’t appreciated the experience.
The source of the problem is that these people have an inflated, unrealistic view of themselves. They will criticize someone’s actions, say they would never do such an immoral thing and then fall short when their “morality” is tested. The fact is no one knows what they would actually do in any given situation unless confronted with that situation. A holier than thou person can predict he would do the right thing, but it doesn’t always work out that way. More often than not, they will react just like every other average person when in the same or similar circumstances. Statements like: I would never, cheat on a test or taxes, never gossip, never lie, never break the law, and many others, are socially acceptable views, but does everyone stick to them?
These same holier than thou people, with their mistaken inflated views of themselves will then apply these beliefs to others behavior hold everyone else up to their high standards, even though they themselves do not meet these standards of behavior. This leads them to harshly criticize and judge others behavior for falling short and can also harm or ruin others’ reputations. And, when they judge others, it only serves to make themselves appear even more superior in their own eyes.
You would think that if the holier than thou population experienced situations where their behaviors fall short of their own high expectations of others, that that would certainly teach them something and humble them to the point where their expectations become more realistic. They might realize for example, that some behaviors are caused by the situations and not the moral character of the people involved and resist making judgments. That would be a great outcome. However, people’s behaviors are not that easily changed and I think the holier than thou’s would like to keep their little rating system in place. To keep themselves up on a pedestal and the rest of us peons in place, they set up a double standard whereby they are not breaking any rules, even if they are doing the same exact thing. They create their own loop holes and in so doing become hypocrites as well.
I think we all guilty of having a little “holier than thou” tendency built into ourselves. After all, it’s not so bad to think good of yourself and to have standards of behavior that are a little idealistic. The trouble comes from trying to impose your idealistic set of beliefs on others and then criticize them when they fail to meet them.
The sad news for the holier than thou people is that they are going to fall off that pedestal one day; and the trip down will bring with it a rude awakening, that they too are like everyone else.