But in the case of righteousness, such a belief is almost always mistaken. Most of us, whether we be timid or bold, liberal, conservative, or (especially) some version of radical, are prone to imbibing heady infusions of the stuff. Viewing ourselves as “good,” in fact we become grievously toxic, literally intoxicated. In this poisonous state of mind we are able to write off others — often literally billions of others — without hesitation or remorse, because they are “bad.” It’s on the news every day: people addicted to righteousness are wreaking havoc, at home and abroad. And as I view this madness, I feel myself swell up with — what? You guessed it — righteous indignation! As usual, addiction becomes a closed system, feeding on itself.
Fortunately, millions of sober addicts have shown us the recipe for sobriety. Whether we’re addicted to heroin or hallucinogens, romance or righteousness, our addictions are resolved as we seek, in fellowship with others, to abandon our control-based mentality, and to develop our capacities for personal humility, indiscriminate compassion, and responsible participation in the many layers of community in which we are nested. Any Self-Righteous Anonymous groups out there? Maybe we should start some.