I am struggling with moral superiority. It literally kept me awake last night. I am going to try to renounce moral superiority.
The revelation was a short podcast called The Key to Trump’s Appeal, which I picked up from a friend’s Facebook post. The gist was, why are so many people loyal to Trump, why do they believe his lies, why do they overlook his gross faults and misdeeds? The podcaster’s answer: they love him because of his faults, which are right out in the open for everybody to see. They love him because he does not make them feel inferior.
Contrast this with the message they get from the left: you are wrong, you are stupid, you must change, you must pay for the sins of your ancestors. . . .
No wonder liberals are despised by a large segment of the population. You could say it is because liberals despise Trump followers in the first place.
It is more than a tit-for-tat, however. It is about wanting to change people’s behavior and attitudes because they are wrong and we know it. It is about feeling morally superior.
When you feel morally superior it is inevitable that your feelings of superiority will come through and people will feel looked down upon. We liberals do this explicitly by criticizing and condemning, and implicitly when we say, “I don’t understand why …”
I don’t understand why people believe Trump’s lies.
I don’t understand why people don’t wear masks to protect other people.
I don’t understand why people don’t “believe” in climate change when the evidence is all around them.
What we liberals truly do not understand is a basic principle of human nature: People don’t like to be criticized. People don’t change because of criticism.
People respond defensively to criticism and if there is a way to get back at the critics they will pounce on it gleefully.
If there is a leader who, rather than criticizing, makes you feel good about exactly who you are or at least is guaranteed never to pour on moral superiority, he has an automatic path to gain and retain loyalty from an awful lot of people, no matter what.
Moral superiority is a big temptation for some people. I am one of them. I like to understand stuff and do right and be good and I am happy to share my knowledge. I can be a sharp critic, as my husband will confirm.
His behavior also demonstrates that criticism seldom has the desired effect. Rather, it raises defenses.
He, on the other hand, seldom criticizes me. Every now and then I realize what a saint he is in this regard. Most of the time I take it for granted, however. I dish out criticism and blissfully live my life free of it.
Facebook is a big temptation for exercising moral superiority. The meme is a perfect vehicle for moral superiority.
Certain politicians exude moral superiority. I’m afraid Hillary Clinton was one of those. She and I share some personality traits: we are both smart and sharp-tongued. People say she was mellow in private but her public image was a problem.
While Joe Biden is a good and moral man, I don’t sense the tendency to make other people feel inferior. Quite the contrary. He strikes me as somewhat like my husband in temperament, someone with strong values and opinions but also genuine humility. He is kind.
My husband is the kindest person I know, except when I attack him (sometimes for being too kind to certain people whom I have deemed losers and takers), and then he lashes back. Predictably.
I would never wish the presidency on my husband but I am glad we have elected someone a little bit like him.
I will try not to gloat.