Deconstructing Self Righteousness, Discrimination, and ‘Make Wrong’

Intelligent Self-Empowerment

"Pursue the offender only to show him the way."
The Tao Teh Ching of Lao Tzu

corollary: He's got to want to be shown.
Lawrence Gold

To be sure, we all make mistakes -- that goes without needing to be said. I say it only to set the frame for this communication.

There are few things more offensive than a self-righteous person who's in the wrong -- except, maybe, a self-righteous person who's right!

This piece is about the underpinnings of self-righteousness -- its appearance, its hidden underpinnings, its embarrassing nature as a form of inadvertent self-sabotage, and the way out without selling out or losing.

The self-righteous person is afraid of being attacked for being wrong or for failing. (S)he has been attacked by others and, to avoid such attack, (s)he is therefore very hard on her/himself in enforcing correct action. (S)he is equally hard on others. We call that "being hard on oneself and others," "Make-Wrong". It's punishment beyond suffering the consequences of being wrong; it's internalized first, externalized onto others, secondly.

"Make-Wrong" is the mood underlying the question, "What will the neighbors [others, fill-in-the-blank] think?" the fear-driven behavior of authoritarianism (which is different from being an authentic authority in that it derives its appearance of authority from the authorized communications of accepted authorities). It is the underpinning of abusive, compulsory idealisms and sometimes the hidden driver of highly-idealistic aspirations.

The odd thing about Make-Wrong is that the self-righteous person is harder on others if (s)he is efforting to avoid error than if (s)he makes the same error as others and knows it. If (s)he makes -- or has made -- the same error as another, (s)he is more likely to have some some compassion. We call that, "being understanding" or "being forgiving"; it's the basis of "skillful means". However, if (s)he has seemingly overcome the error in her/himself by self-suppression or forcible self-correction, (s)he is likely to be harder on others than if (s)he knows (s)he is prone to the same error.

So, the self-righteous person represses the thing in him/herself that (s)he forbids in others and forbids in others what (s)he represses in her/himself. It's a closed, self-reinforcing fear-and-anger feedback loop. Thus, the self-righteous person loathes admitting errors.

(S)he may also be deluded into thinking that (s)he is being hard on others for their own good -- and that is the mood of self-righteousness.

Self-suppression and forcible self-correction do not correct the tendency to make a habitual error or the tendency to castigate others for their errors. Self-suppression and forcible self-correction constitute gigantic blunders (errors) on the part of the self-righteous because those approaches load up a charge of "Make-Wrong".

This is not to say that finding things, "wrong", is wrong. Apart from the paradox, some things are wrong. If we're honest, "wrong" exists in the "worse" direction of the continuum of "better <==>worse". Some things have consequences that are not just wrong from a socially-constructed value system (subject to the dictum, "judge not") but directly affect quality of life. 

It's how we manage the "wrong" thing. That's where discrimination comes in.

The first thing we have to do is rescue the word, "discrimination" from the incorrect meaning given by those who, thinking to be politically-correct, but being intellectually lazy -- or safely conformist -- use language badly. 

"Discrimination" exists in the same meaning-group as, "discernment", and "drawing distinctions". It's the ability to tell one thing from another by observing and contrasting their features.

Here are definitions of, "discrimination" from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:‑Webster2. : the quality or power of finely distinguishing. 3. a : the act, practice, or an instance of discriminating categorically rather than individually. b : prejudiced or prejudicial outlook, action, or treatment discrimination>
The way the "politically-correct" types mean it, "discrimination" means, "prejudice" -- and "prejudice" is gross, as opposed to fine, discrimination.

Gross discrimination involves having a memory triggered by some feature of an individual case and applying that memory to that individual case without troubling to determine whether that memory actually applies to that individual case -- like, "All Muslims are likely to be terrorists." Prejudice.

Fine discrimination is the reverse: having a memory triggered and carefully distinguishing to what degree and in what way, if any, it applies to an individual case. That's where discernment comes in. It is the exercise of intelligence, not toward blanket condemnation, but toward individual-case creative action. "Some Muslims, and some of most other groups, are terrorists." Not pleasant -- but . . . . . discriminate: who, exactly? You see? That takes more intelligence.

One who does not discriminate does not self-correct, very well -- never mind correct someone else (as if that were possible). Such a one cannot even follow careful instructions, very well, because their perception is crude and incomplete, their attention dominated by memory and habit, which they seek to enforce. 

Fault-finding is not correction; the most one can hope to do is draw attention to what has been distinguished -- and the other person has to want it (better, yet, to have asked for it); the only correction possible is self-correction. (You can't breathe for another person.)

Do you believe in "criminals"? Criminals are those who fail to discriminate right from wrong action; they act indiscriminately, without regard for likely consequences. As such, the word, "criminal" is wrong; they should be called, "indiscriminals".

The way out of self-righteousness and "Make-Wrong" is to bring more intelligence to the situation -- to discriminate -- and to communicate with only enough force to bring adequate attention to the situation with enough clarity and vividness of imagination and articulate communication to show the person another way, one which has the flavor of desirability and the ring of truth. Lead by example. "Be the change you want to see in the world." Only in the most dire or unresponsive of situations, "bring down the hammer" in anger -- really possible when free of "Make-Wrong", oneself.

The way out of error is to recover the ability to exercise four faculties of intelligence:  attention, memory, intention, imagination.

The reason this approach works is the error arises from a deficiency or imbalance among those four faculties. Compounding that deficiency is the mood of shock or fear about making error. That mood makes one unwilling to acknowledge ones own error, its qualities and consequences; it renders self-correction impossible -- basically because the person is too petrified to take a clear look. Another word for "petrified" is "traumatized" -- not only by the consequence of error, but by the "Make-Wrong" of
self-righteousness -- and another self-righteous person with internalized "Make-Wrong" is born.

That being the case, harsh rebuke by a self-righteous person makes it harder for a person to recognize, acknowledge, and self-correct error. It's like the situation where two people speak different languages and one seeks to overcome the language difficulty by talking louder. 

Need I say more?

So, the first thing to clear up is the mood of, "Make-Wrong" in oneself by awakening and balancing the four faculties of intelligence in oneself, making it possible to bring intelligence to the situation. The next thing is to bring the four faculties of intelligence to bear on the error-situation, itself. The charge of "Make-Wrong" assumes its proper proportion or dissolves. Intelligence emerges. Self-Empowerment occurs.

Two Intelligent Self-Empowerment procedures dissolve "Make-Wrong", self-righteousness, and the tendency to compound errors:
The Set-Up awakens and balances the four faculties of intelligence (attention, memory, intention, imagination) and immediately tempers "Make-Wrong" and naturally starts self-correction (the only kind of correction there is).

The Gold Key Release dissolves the sense of being caught in -- or guilty of -- the situation.

What's left is free and better-balanced intelligence capable of actually doing something new without having to suppress or forcibly self-correct. It's a much easier situation much more likely to result in the desired outcome.

Now, run those procedures on the feelings surfaced by this communication. Deconstructing Self Righteousness, Discrimination, and ‘Make Wrong’ Lawrence Gold

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