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Defining morality in terms of themselves

This is a section of a longer paper. There is a roadmap for the entire paper, and you can download the PDF.

The first broad pattern of SBCMB is the tendency for a person exhibiting SBCMB to define morality primarily in reference to themselves. The moral world of such a person often seems divided into two kinds of people: “people who think I’m worthy” (i.e. the good people) and “people who are against me” (i.e. the bad people). For those who are leaders of a Christian ministry or church, this might be extended to their ministry, i.e. there are two kinds of people: “people who are for my ministry/church” (i.e. the good people) and “people who are against my ministry/church” (i.e. the bad people). This is the primary category through which much of their moral conversation is filtered. Sometimes it can take a while for this pattern to become clear, but once recognised it appears to make sense of many other statements the person makes. At other times, the attitude is obvious right from the start.

An illustration: Defining morality in terms of themselves

I (Lionel) once contacted an individual because I was concerned that this individual had published an unfair criticism of another person’s work. I wanted to check the accuracy of my observations before publicly defending the other person against the criticism as part of my own work. I had never met the individual who wrote the criticism before I contacted him. His response to me was quite surprising. Before getting around to talking about the issue I raised about his criticism, he began with several lengthy paragraphs, in which he:

– criticised all the other people in my circles who—he claimed—always (without exception) publicly criticised his work yet never checked with him privately first.

– commended me in strong terms for contacting him directly—implying that I was in a moral category different from everybody else in my circles.

– claimed that people in my circles had a settled policy of ignoring him and denigrating him, with a further statement that he personally could not “excuse” such behaviour (again implying a moral judgment).

– lamented that those with whom he disagreed tended not to engage with him (but hoping that I might be an exception).

– stated that it was important that I should now enter into a further public debate/discussion with him, which he said would be “healthy” and “mature”—with the obvious implication that for me not to do so would be unhealthy and immature.

Of course, such statements by themselves are not sufficient to identify the full SBCMB pattern; however, in subsequent conversation I realised that this person also displayed most of the other characteristics of SBCMB that we list below. We will return to some of these statements below, since they illustrate other features of SBCMB.

Thus, frequent statements from a person in which that person’s moral world is divided into “people who think I’m worthy” and “people who are against me” is an indicator of SBCMB, and seems to point to an underlying feature.

Read the next section: Redefining personal/relational reality to suit their view of themselves

Copyright © 2021 Lionel and Bronwyn Windsor

Note well: Because of time and energy constraints, we’re not personally able to respond to any queries or comments about this paper. So please realise in advance that if you send us a message about this paper, you are unlikely to receive any response from us.

To read the whole paper: Slow-burn crazy-making behaviours

Slow-burn crazy-making behavioursOnline: a roadmap for the entire paper Download the entire PDF

You may also like: Lift Your Eyes

Lift Yours Eyes is a series of 70 reflections covering every sentence in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. It’s also available in audio podcast format. You can see all the posts in the series, and connect to the audio podcast using the platform of your choice, by following this link.



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