“[Jesus] has a lot to say about self-righteousness, which he compares, not very tactfully, to a grave that looks neat and well cared for up top but is heaving with ‘corruption’ down below. Maggots, basically. And the point of this repulsive image is not just that the inside and outside of a self-righteous person don’t match, that there’s a hypocritical contradiction between the claim to virtue and the actual content of a human personality: it’s also that, for him, being sure you’re righteous, standing on your own dignity as a virtuous person, comes precious close to being dead. If you won’t hear the bad news about yourself, you can’t know yourself. You condemn yourself to the maintenance of an exhausting illusion, a false front to your self which keeps out doubt and with it hope, change, nourishment, breath, life. If you won’t hear the bad news, you can’t begin to hear the good news about yourself either. And you’ll do harm. You’ll be pumped up with the false confidence of virtue, and you’ll think it gives you a license, and a large share of all the cruelties in the world will follow, for evil done knowingly is rather rare compared to the evil done by people who’re sure that they themselves are good, and that evil is hatefully concentrated in some other person; some other person who makes your flesh creep because they have become exactly as unbearable, as creepy, as disgusting, as you fear the mess would be beneath your own mask of virtue, if you ever dared to look at it,” – Francis Spufford, from his recent book, Unapologetic.
Previous Dish on Spufford here.