I thought I was being Principled, until I saw I was being Self-Righteous.
A person who is principled has character traits that imply acting in accordance with a moral compass and/or showing a recognition of right and wrong. There is something attractive about someone known to be honesty, forth-right or with a track record of noteworthy accomplishments. They are trusted, in many cases, without the need to prove their assertions. They are often given positions of leadership because of the integrity they embody.
It is true that we can be disappointed when our trust is misused by someone who masquerades as a principled person. For Example, a confidence-person emulates principled characteristics to take advantage of the unsuspecting, politicians don’t keep their promises or some members of the clergy are unable to live up to the high standards expected of them. Yet we hold on to the ideal that living by principles is a highly desirable trait.
This essay attempts to bring out the potential that some people who want to be known as principled are in fact acting out of self-interest, only pretending to be disciplined. In such cases they exhibit attitudes of haughtiness, an air of superiority, or sometime are condescending toward those with whom they interact. They assume they are entitled to leadership roles or that their opinions should not be questioned. These are the people who seek to influence outcomes and form alliances to preserve their power-base; all the while acting as if they are perceived to be principled and, therefore, above reproach.
Self-righteousness is certainly exhibited with attitude; however, it reveals an underlying character flaw. This character flaw must be addressed with deep self-examination and concerted effort to modify this behavior. The circumstances that lead to someone recognizing their self-righteousness are likely painful. Without an event that produces an abrupt and piercing emotional pain many are unable to begin to understand and take responsibility for the effects of their behavior on others. For those who make this transition the characteristics of acceptance, forgiveness and humility soften their hard edges.
How do you function in situations where group dynamics bring out a variety of personality types? What are your deep motives as you participate? Do you talk critically about the strong personalities to others outside of the group discussion? How do you want others to see you and your role in the group?