11 Characteristics of the Self-Righteous

Self-righteousness is rampant in our churches. Pews are packed every week with Pharisees, who think they are doing everything right. Scripture, however, paints a woefully different picture. Far from thinking we have arrived, or that we are superior to others, we should see ourselves as needing and depending on the righteousness of Christ.

Instead of raising our spiritual noses at those struggling with sin, we should humbly bow before the Savior knowing we too are sinners saved by God’s grace. So instead of thinking of ourselves as self-righteous, we should thank and praise God for sending His Son to die for our transgressions.

Even though we should humble ourselves before our Savior, we often don’t. Instead, we continue to act as if we have made ourselves righteous through our own efforts, not Christ’s. We often do that – act self-righteous – without even knowing it. So in an effort to create awareness here are 11 characteristics of the self-righteous.

11 Characteristics of The Self-Righteous

1. They do not see their walk with God as a community project.

2. They do not work well with others.

3. They consistently believe they are right and know best.

4. They are resistant to change.

5. They do not respond well when reminded they need to change.

6. They do not desire others exhortation or admonition, even getting angry at times.

7. They are not patient with those who mess up, struggle with sin, or have lost their way.

8. They do not deal well with opposition or accusations.

9. They will consistently wonder why God has singled them out for difficulty.

10. They do not see a need to admit or confess their sin.

11. They consistently point out the sin of others with an air of superiority.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do your actions or attitudes reflect any of these characteristics?


Post adapted from Paul Tripp, Dangerous Calling, 73-74.


17 thoughts on “11 Characteristics of the Self-Righteous

  1. Self-righteous…or narcissist? I’m currently reading Scott Peck’s “People of the Lie” and, as I went through your list, I saw many similarities between your list and narcissistic behavior. Peck points out in a later chapter (haven’t got there yet) that many narcissistic people gravitate towards church to improve their public persona. Just a thought.

    1. Don,
      I think that is a good observation. Self-righteous people often want the praise of others. They want others to look at them as great. The Pharisees fasting and praying is a great example.

      What is the name of the book? Would you recommend it for the reading list?

      Casey Lewis

  2. The point about our Christian walk as a community project is interesting and important. It is one of those theological truths that is so difficult to remember and work out. I often rush through life failing to engage in the lives of others and pridefully portraying only my best side. Perhaps this topic could be the subject of a longer post from you. I would be especially interested to see what directly says about it.

    1. Dustin,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. I agree that walking in community with others is difficult. I too often fail to engage others I know and at times puff myself up as if I don’t have any sin. As I have been reading Dangerous Calling by Tripp lately, I am reminded of the importance of community and confessing sin, especially for a pastor, since it is easy to seclude yourself.

      Church culture for both the pastor and the congregation needs to work toward creating meaningful community. I will see if I can come up with a post on community in the near future.

      Casey Lewis

  3. Pingback: Thankest thee for making me holier than the rest – A blow at Self Righteousness: Charles Spurgeon | Ancient Paths

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  6. Casey, one of the things I tell people about myself is that I used to be the “most self-righteous son-of-a-gun you’d ever meet.” Nearly all of the points in your post described my self-perception to a tee. I thank God for allowing me to hit rock bottom, for allowing me to recognize my own sinfulness, and for then showing me what grace is all about.

    I trust you won’t mind me reblogging this on my site. God bless you, brother.

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