The Psychology of Superiority

Psychology of SuperiorityHigh school cliques, racial prejudice, and atrocities such as genocide all have one thing in common. They originate and exist because one group thinks they are superior to another group. This phenomenon could be called the “psychology of superiority,” and is the cause of much of the conflict in the world at various levels.

A problem with a solution
Psychology is the study of the human mind and emotions. A more literal translation of the word would be “a study of the human spirit or soul.” There seems to be something innate in all people that consider their group superior to other groups. If this feeling could be changed to one of more acceptance of those who are different from us, what a better world this would be. Is this even a possibility? It would be good to remember the biblical admonition that, “nothing is impossible with God.” God does have a solution for this problem that addresses the total person – body, soul, and spirit. First, let’s understand some of the cause of this problem before looking at the solution. This is not necessarily an exhaustive list of causes but it will address much of the reason for the psychology of superiority.

A person’s theology
There are two core life philosophies, humanism (man is the center of all things) or Theism (God is the center of all things). Humanism would view man as basically good while the historic Judeo-Christian theology would view man as fallen and evil in his natural state. This view does not mean a human being is incapable of doing anything good, for we are created in the image of God. In spite of the fall, man’s depraved nature still has a residue of God’s image and can be motivated to accomplish good. The fallen, sinful nature of man means we, by nature, live in rebellion to God and his ways. This means, as humans, we do not have a natural desire to love God with all our heart and, because of this, will not love our neighbor as ourselves. The evidence of human history would seem to support Theism as the reality of the human condition. No matter how often or in what varied ways it is tried, we cannot bring peace to this earth and create the brotherhood of man. If this theological basis is rejected, then the problem of superiority thinking will never be solved.

A person’s pride
The scripture tells us that only by pride comes conflict. Pride is the essence of sin. It means to put self, the big “I,” ahead of God and everyone else. Pride is the natural state of fallen man. The apostle John tells us the pride of life is a core philosophy upon which the world’s system runs (1John 2.15-16). Pride seeks to promote self and make self look the best. One of the ways this is accomplished is by comparing self to others in the hope of feeling superior. A problem arises when, in comparison, self feels inferior to the other person or group. This creates the need to tear down or in some way diminish the other so self can feel superior. This can be done through words (gossip or criticism) or actions. Pride can go to the extreme and cause much cruelty by one group against another. An illustration of this is seen in the book of Esther when Haman was willing to destroy the Jewish race because Mordecai, the Jew, wounded his pride. (Esther 3).

A person’s prejudice
When one group treats another group in a selfish, hurtful and wrong way, it can set up a negative cycle that lasts for generations. Just look at the Arab/Jewish conflict or, in the Muslim world, the conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, to name just two. Racial tensions that go back for generations still exist in our own country. Because each group feels superior, they feel justified in their retaliation for past wrongs. The psychology of superiority perpetuates these conflicts among nations, people groups and even as close to home as husband and wife.

God’s solution: the gospel
To transform this psychology of superiority means a person’s total being – their intellect, heart, soul and will – must be changed. God’s remedy for this problem is the gospel. The gospel recognizes the theological reality of man’s sinfulness and therefore his need of a redeemer. It is the great equalizer of humanity because it places all of us in the same group. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. Receiving Christ as the payment for our sin debt is more than just a ticket to heaven. It is how God restores all of humanity to the image of God and removes the curse of sin from all of creation. The gospel destroys human pride and prejudice while giving us a new heart that enables us to love God and others. It brings an end to the psychology of superiority.

Dr. John Hawkins, along with his son John Jr., runs Gateway Counseling Center in Boynton Beach, Fl. He can be reached at gatewaycounseling.com.

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