Thursday, 22 January 2015

A world without self-righteousness?

What would living in a world free from self-righteousness look or feel like? Well, I guess the first to go is that all too familiar holier-than-thou attitude. Essentially, you will feel or act no better, smarter or holier than your neighbor or that person standing beside you in the train or that man begging for extra change on the street or that candidate voting against you in a campaign or that churchgoer sincerely questioning your sermon or that young student raising a valid point that threatens your credibility.

A world without self-righteousness would leave most things we see today unchanged. Yet the change is nevertheless there. It is subtle and it goes far deeper. In fact, I believe the difference is so profound that many will find their relationships vastly improved, even more resilient. First impression will not only be enriching, it will be equally enduring too.

I imagine such a world will be devoid of self-conceited judgment and everyone will be a hardcore listener and not a die-hard critic. It is a world where having the last word is palpably embarrassing and most will politely refrain from speculating and prejudging. It is also a more transparent world where candid-ness is strongly encouraged and hidden motives frowned upon. There is in reality no axe to grind because there is neither any cause for wielding an axe nor grinding it.

Without self-righteousness, everyone will feel relaxed, fully disarmed, safe and secure, and completely open in sharing any feelings, emotions, hurts or disagreement that he or she may have over less than agreeable issues. Negotiation will be based on serving the interests of the whole rather than the interest of self or other dead-end ideologies used as a means to serve a self-glorifying end.
 Considering that self-righteousness is generally a delusional over-estimation of one's ability, expertise or opinion of oneself, I can expect that such a world will readily endorse this saying by the Chinese sage, Confucius, "Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance." For if you think about it, in our infinite ignorance, aren't we all equal? For this reason, the starting point of any dialogue is to treat the other party with respect, understanding, and most importantly, as equals. No one will exhibit even an iota of self-superiority, pomposity or condescension. All know-it-all will humbly adopt a learn-with-all posture. 

I trust a world where self-righteousness is absent is also a world where people of all walks of life are conscious of their own flaws and shortcomings. Self-awareness will be so convicting (and restraining)  that it leaves no room for self-delusion. No doubt they will still compete with one another but the competition will be to do one's best and not to think that one is more superior than the other. There will of course be winners and runners-up but it will not result in envy or anger because when the focus is not on self but on others, the winners will generally be humbled and the rest will be duly inspired. Even those who are leaders, mentors and teachers will be scarce to flaunt their knowledge and experiences around.

The intrinsic beauty of this world is that no one is made to feel small, worthless, inadequate, inferior, discriminated, unimportant, disregarded, dismissed or insulted. Each individual is treasured for who he or she is and not what he or she is expected to become by an impersonal and capricious standard. There will no doubt be standards to achieve and performances to match but it will not be one where the winners are glorified and the losers are stigmatized.

I would never underestimate the power of change in a world where self-righteousness is done away with. I can picture a conflict-absent world where the people living in it are more self-sacrificing than self-hoarding. As personal egos are put to rest, or at least banished to a subordinated role, the world will for the first time experience a servanthood revolution. People will find more pleasure in giving rather than taking, and generosity and kindness will lead the way instead of strife, greed and exploitation.

Short of washing the feet of their people, world leaders will serve in humility, act with consideration, and lead with more heart than head knowledge. They will deal directly with the issues – however thorny they can turn out - and not the person, and they will seek to understand before they crave to be understood. Building relationship -  and not one's personal agenda and reputation - will be the overriding goal in international engagement.

A world without self righteousness is an others-first society and the unintended consequence of elevating others is that it will strangely lead to the elevation of self. But there is a decisive difference here. This unintended or indirect  elevation is not a result of mindless self-promotion, but instead it is a product of self-denial and selfless giving. As such, the discernible effect is both self-effacing and self-empowering. And that is why a world without self-righteousness is undeniably transforming, and not to mention, rather revolutionary. Cheerz. 

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