Ep. 435 How Do You Counsel a Self-righteous Person?

Ep. 8 How Do You Counsel a Self-righteous Person

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Shows Main Idea – “I’m thinking of a person who is not concerned with the kingdom of God and is more concerned with a kingdom of self, especially a person who does not have a gospel-centered motive. They have a lot of pride and are not easy to teach. They want a certain way and do not consider God’s will. How do you counsel a self-righteous person?” –Doug

Show Notes

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Three Things

Does this person want someone to counsel them? I’m not sure they would come to counseling if these things are true. I have counseled this type of person before, but in most cases, someone made them come to counseling.

So, I assume you’re asking how to help a person like this who is not looking for help. Here are three challenges you’ll have to overcome if you attempt to counsel him in a traditional counseling setting.

  • Counseling is for those who want to change, not those who don’t.
  • Counseling is a conversation about change: this guy needs more connecting points that are not always talking about him changing.
  • Counseling depends on God changing him; God grants repentance, so a counseling season might not provide you with the time you need.

Who Is He?

So, you said he’s Christian with a lot of pride, is self-righteous, and is difficult to teach. I recommend you engage this person outside traditional counseling contexts so it’s not always so directed and pressing.

For example, create diverse contexts and situations to build a relational bridge to help him change, i.e., Sunday morning, small talk contexts like coffee meet-ups, small group meetings, church family fun days, hospitality, and other serious and non-serious connections.

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His Three Problems

He has a lot of pride

  • You have to unpack what you mean by pride because every sin is a form of pride.
  • To help him, you must determine the specifics of his pride: sins, preferences, hang-ups, mistakes, and other Adamic deficits.
  • What forms of pride do you see: fear, cynicism, boasting, reputation management, stubbornness, rationalizer, etc.?

He is self-righteous

  • Self-righteousness is a form of pride and is more specific.
  • Caution: You can’t help a self-righteous person because there is no grace for them because they have a righteousness. They are not sick, needy, or broken; all conditions for grace—the unrighteous soul.
  • Obviously, we know he’s not self-righteous, but he is stubbornly or ignorantly playing a game and is uninterested in change. God would give grace to him, but because of his pride, God opposes him (James 4:6).
  • The Pharisees were like this. Read Matthew 23 to learn what Christ thinks about those with a “greater than, better than” attitude.
  • Self-righteousness competes against the alien righteousness that we receive from Christ.
    • There must be a simultaneous cooperative work with God where he de-elevates himself as God provides grace for him.

He is unteachable

  • The saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink,” is invalid: you can put salt in his oats.
  • Your objective is to study his soul—the meaning of psychology, and you have the soul book to explore this person’s psyche. See Genesis 2:7; 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
  • Think through some of the universal commonalities that affect all of us.

Universal Assumptions

Use Your Advantage

  • You know about the human condition—psychology.
  • You also know what is in him and how he struggles because he’s not different from you.
  • What is inside of him that causes him to struggle?
    • What are his weaknesses, fears, and insecurities?
    • What does he try to hide or protect?
  • Ask God to give you insight into him and how you can create a conversation to appeal to his inner longings, fears, and frustrations.

Six Things You Know

  • He does not want to suffer? How does that apply to him?
  • He’s insecure. He struggles with fear.
  • He’s self-righteous, and we all are to varying degrees. Make the conversation about him because he’s in love with himself. Use discretion and self-control, but use his self-righteousness against him.
  • He wants to be in control. He does not want to trust God but himself. He resists God. Figure out why.
  • He likes comfort. What are his idols, and why does he enjoy them? What do they provide for him?
  • He has a sense of shame. He wears “fig leaves” like Adam, so carefully address this as you build that relational bridge that gets behind his representative.

Four More Things

  • Get him outside the counseling setting so that you’re not telegraphing your soul care. Get him outside of “counseling mode,” relaxed and being his friend.
  • Meet in his context, i.e., his home or watching a child play baseball. A person will let down their guard and be more comfortable on their home turf.
  • Don’t make every conversation a counseling one. Don’t make every conversation about God, change, and how you can change. Laugh a lot. Enjoy being with him. Come up for air.
  • Let him see how the Word of God is profound and relevant in your life:
    • By the life that you live. Deconstruct his preconceived notions about Christianity. For example, I thought all Christians acted like Mormons.
    • By how you have fun. You’re relaxed, not hung up on yourself, and should be the loudest person in the restaurant. You don’t compromise or sin, but he sees fun, for example, by how you interact with your spouse, children, and the waiter.
    • By the order you have. When God’s Word invades your soul, it brings you from a chaotic life to a well-ordered one.
    • By the answers that you give him about life. Your responses should be other-worldly.

One More Thing

You cannot be annoyed at this person but must exercise self-control, patience, and affection for them (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

Direct Video Messages

Call to Action

  1. Do you know a self-righteous person? It’s a trick question because you know you. Why do you struggle with self-righteousness? How have you overcome those temptations to a greater than, better than attitude?
  2. The way you have historically counseled yourself will assist you in helping a fellow struggler.
  3. Will you go back through this analysis and begin diagnosing your friend?
  4. Will you create a few questions you can have top of mind and be ready to use them in those Spirit-created moments?

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