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Terry Real

Terry Real

Posted: April 29, 2008 05:13 PM

Obama vs. Rev. Wright: The Wrongness of Righteousness


I found myself riveted by Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr.'s speech at the National Press Club yesterday and even more so by the immediate effect it had on Barack Obama's polls. I feel heart sick and appalled.

Like most of America, no matter what side of the political spectrum you're on, I was profoundly impressed by Obama's speech on race as well as the dignity of this man's refusal to slide his friend under the bus for political expediency. In my lifetime, I can count on one hand the number of times I've witnessed a politician behave with that type of loyalty and integrity.

No matter how Rev. Wright has justified it in his mind, either for his own career or for some personal idea about righteousness, this man has opened his mouth at the most inopportune moment and has produced immediate damage to someone who behaved with great class toward him. To say nothing of the fact that he is hurting the front-running candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination which would, as we can all appreciate, be an historic occasion for his race.

As I went to bed last night shaking my head, wondering what could this man could be thinking, I was once again struck by the potent force of pride and sheer ego in our lives. Perhaps on some personal level the good reverend felt that Obama did not stand up for him enough and this is payback, or perhaps he feels that his cause is so righteous that devil damn the consequences. Either way, I see what happened as a variation on a theme that links this Black Christian minister with a White Jewish governor (Spitzer).

One of the real contributions of Relational Life Therapy is the focus on what is technically called "grandiosity" or what is known in the vernacular as pride or ego, which is a state of contemptuousness, feeling better-than, superior or above the rules. Whether it's a public figure caught with his underpants down or a public figure betraying a man who stood up for him, there are whole history books to be written about pride in politics. Whether it's launching a thousand ships for payback over a lost woman or sending 100,000 troops for payback for your daddy's incomplete war, a lot of blood has been spilled over the centuries, literally and figuratively, due to misspent pride and in particular men's pride.

Women are not as overtly grandiose as men, or at least it manifests itself in different ways. Certainly no one can say that Hilary Clinton is devoid of grandiosity and pride. As more women become leaders we will know if there really is a difference or if there has just been a historic perception due to access. Either way, pride, hubris or a knee-jerk sense of self-righteousness is that damaging sense that "I'm gonna do what I'm gonna do, damn the consequences."

Readers, here is your challenge: While we may not be able to do anything about foreign wars, mischievous governors or egotistical preachers, I challenge you for the week to stand up against ego and pride in your personal relationships -- that is against your OWN pride, not your partner's. The bottom line is that you can be right or your can be married, what's more important to you?

In honor of Rev. Wright, I'm inviting you to be wrong. I'm inviting you readers to notice yourself about to be "right" despite the consequences and to do something unusual -- just shut up. I would like for you to step away from that point that seems so important. I would like for you to step away from self-righteous indignation, no matter how justified you feel. I would like for you to choose friendship and love over ego.

Try it at least once this week and write in and share the experience with us. Let us know how it goes.