Holier-Than-Thou: 8 Ways to Stop Being the Ethics Police and Start Enjoying Your Life

Written by Angela Atkinson

Have you ever found yourself really wanting to like someone or something, but not allowing yourself to do so because you believe they are doing something unethical or against your personal values? Or maybe you just automatically assume things about people based on factors that aren’t as relevant as you might expect.

Holier Than Thou Empathy Exercise

What do I mean? How about a little show-and-tell situation?

For example, let’s say you are a Christian who believes that being gay is somehow against your religion. One day, you meet a really cool guy at church. You really like him and you can’t wait to introduce him to your husband – they have a lot in common! 

But when you are introduced to his life partner the following week, a very attractive man, you stop short – how can you be friends with this person who is going against your idea of what’s acceptable? 

Hold up, friend. Here’s the deal – everybody’s going to say, believe and ultimately DO what they want, and unfortunately, it’s not your place (or mine) to try and fix what we see as broken on other people. 

Sure, we all have our own sets of values.

And sure, having values and ethics that you stick to is very positive – but there’s also a risk of getting over-enthusiastic in your enforcement of your beliefs toward other people.

This often leads to expecting others to behave a certain way – and that, my friend, leads to disaster. 


Because it feels terrible to be judged by someone you care about – even if it IS only on a friend level. This is even more injuring when there’s a family member involved.

And because, to be perfectly frank, literally nobody enjoys being given the “holier-than-thou” treatment – okay? Don’t believe me? Try this. 

Holier-Than-Thou Empathy Exercise

Just close your eyes for a moment and remember that last time someone judged you unfairly. 

  • How did you feel? 
  • How would you have preferred to be treated by the person who judged you?
  • What could they have done or said in order to make the situation more comfortable for you, if anything?
  • How can you do better the next time you’re feeling judgy with a friend or family member?

Newsflash: You aren’t better than anyone else. 

No matter what your personal or religious beliefs are, you’ve got to recognize tha there’s no single way to live life or view the world. You’re limiting your personal growth and enjoyment when you expect others to live according to your rules.

Just like your parents might have given you the basis on which you focus your beliefs today, so did many others’ parents – and just as you believe wholeheartedly that your beliefs are the One True Way – so do many other people in the world. 

Almost every other person, in fact. It’s that healthy level of narcissism that helps us all to make through each day. 

Worried that you or someone you love might have developed an unhealthy level of narcissism? Read this. 

Don’t forget the whole “law of attraction” element.

Being critical of others has additional consequences. If you’re hard on others, you’re also hard on yourself. Your self-esteem and happiness suffer. And by the universal law of attraction, you’re also going to find a lot of other people finding fault with you. It’s just a fact: life is simply more enjoyable when we accept others and ourselves.

Hack Your Attitude: 8 Ways to Stop Being Overly Judgmental of Yourself and Others

Use these strategies to remove your expectations and be less critical:

1. Be aware of critical thoughts. Everything has a beginning. Before you can make critical judgments and say critical things, there has to be a critical thought. This is your cue to change your thought process.

  • Hack: Constantly monitor your thoughts and remind yourself to be more open-minded. It’ll feel weird at first, but if you stick with it, it’ll get better fast. 

2. Just breathe! Pause for five seconds and take a deep breath. In most cases, you’re safe until you open your mouth. When you find yourself feeling judgmental, stop and take a short pause. You’ll interrupt your thought pattern and give yourself a chance to think before you say something you might regret.

  • How many times have you wished you could take back something you’ve said? That doesn’t have to happen again in the future.

3. Remember – you don’t know what that person is going through. Understand that people, including yourself, are doing the best they can. That’s not to say that everyone is living up to their potential. But everyone has their own unique past, tragedies, upbringing, health issues, and way of viewing the world. Faced with the same experiences, you can’t be certain you would do any better.

  • The person you’re judging might be doing a lot better than you think if only you knew the entire story.

4. Assume nothing! Avoid stereotyping. There are CEOs with tattoos and wonderful parents that used to be exotic dancers. You’re only fooling yourself if you believe you can judge someone based on a couple of characteristics or facts. Are you strong and patient enough to determine the truth about the other person?

5. Find a role model. You know someone that’s very accepting of everyone. Sit down and speak with them. Ask them how they manage to be so non-critical of everyone. Ask them what they think when they see a Goth teenager covered in tattoos and piercings.

  •  Their thoughts might be the answer to your struggle.

6. The past doesn’t have to equal the future. Everyone makes mistakes. Those mistakes don’t have to be repeated. Understand that people can learn from their errors. You wouldn’t want to be judged by your greatest mistake, nor would it provide an accurate view of you. Give others the same consideration.

7. You ain’t the ethics police! Respect the freedom of others. No one elected you to decide how others should live their lives. It’s arrogant and delusional to believe that your way is the right way for everyone. You have the option to live your life the way you choose. Provide the same freedom to others.

8. Let go of your expectations. Having expectations is a form of trying to control others. Become more flexible. When you have expectations, they’re sure to be violated. There’s only one way you can feel at that point: upset. Let go of your expectations and accept the outcome without judgment.

If you have a habit of being critical, you’ll get more out of life if you reverse that tendency. This is a great opportunity to be patient and understanding with yourself. The people that annoy us are here to teach us about ourselves.

Make an effort to learn more about someone you don’t like. You might find that your first impression was incorrect!

What do you think? Is this something you could try? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments. 

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