“And remember, where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that.”
– John Dalberg-Acton
“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness — they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist.” - C. S. Lewis
From a psychological experiment in Journal of Applied Psychology: (full article in link below)
The experiment involving the adults found a similar relationship between moral identity, ethical behavior and innate aggressiveness. Assertive people who scored low on the moral-identity scale were more likely to say they’d cheated their employer in the past week than more passive types with similar moral-identity scores. But among those with high moral-identity scores, the assertive people were less likely to have cheated.
In sum, the study found, power doesn’t corrupt; it heightens pre-existing ethical tendencies. Which brings to mind another maxim, from Abraham Lincoln: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
The cure is humility.
Luke 14:11 – For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
There are subtleties behind some of the divisions you see in America today. The scribes of Jesus’ day had a similar problem. In fact, Jesus told the people to be wary of them because of their love for recognition and respect, and because of their religious hypocrisy. They were exploiting the people with false messages—but they believed they were the ones who were right. They were, in a word, self-righteous.
The “I’m right and you need to agree with me” attitude that prevails in some circles, even among some Christians, is self-righteousness, and it is dangerous. It stems from a psychological place of fear, and leads to indignation and anger. Polarization in the United States is at an all-time high; it has been fueled by self-righteous politicians and protesting groups, and it results in pugnacious contempt.
You cannot change what other people do; but you can change how you respond. To hold a self-righteous attitude comes at a high cost. You may, indeed, have the moral high ground, but you might better serve yourself and your Savior by doing what He says and humbly serve one another with the time and energy you would have spent on demonizing them.
Heavenly Father, I confess that sometimes it seems that I am too ready to put down some people and politicians who, to my mind, “just don’t get it,” and whose ideals and goals are not in alignment with what I think they should be. Forgive me when I am self-righteous. I remember how you said in Proverbs that a man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor. Guide me by Your Spirit to be more humble. Lead me with Your righteousness, for it is sufficient for me. For the sake of Jesus and His kingdom, Amen.
Lifting our elections up to the Lord helps all of us keep the focus on the most important topics as well as softens our hearts to love everyone, even those with whom we may disagree. Believing differently shouldn't stop us from sharing God's love and His Word with others.