WHEN SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS is expressed, it tends to evoke self-righteousness in the listener. Self-righteousness (also called holier-than-thou) is a feeling of smug moral superiority derived from a sense that one's beliefs, actions, or affiliations are of greater virtue than those of the average person.
When you know a lot about Islam and your listener doesn't know anything (but thinks he does), self-righteousness is bound to crop up somewhere.
In a conversation, if someone expresses self-righteousness, that look on their face and that tone in their voice tends to arouse self-righteousness in you, doesn't it? And of course, any self-righteousness you express does the same to any listener who doesn't agree with you.
So ideally, you would not express any self-righteousness when you're trying to educate someone about the disturbing nature of Islam. The self-righteousness is a barrier to communication, making it almost impossible for your listener to accept what you say.
But Houston, we have a problem. You can't just suppress your own self-righteousness. If you feel self-righteous, it communicates whether you want it to or not. In order to not express self-righteousness, you actually have to feel no self-righteousness.
But how can you do that? There is only one way: You must develop genuine empathy for the other person. You cannot see them as an enemy, as an idiot, as a fool, or as anything derogatory. You have to see them as a good human being defending worthy values.
That's a big challenge, psychologically, especially when they are both ignorant about Islam and self-righteously thinking they know more than you. But you can do it. You can see them as a good human being defending worthy values. And when you do, your persuasive efficacy will increase tenfold.
You were once ignorant about Islam too, and you may also have had a difficult time believing a religion could be so intolerant in its core doctrines. I know I did. I did not want to believe it. Most of us felt that way in the beginning. And we felt that way for good reasons. In this culture, we are committed to fairness, to religious freedom, and to protecting the defenseless. These are some of the core values that make our culture worth defending.
You have to see that when a non-Muslim argues against what you're saying and tries to defend Islam, he or she is ultimately motivated by these core values — values that are so instinctive, the impulse to protect those values arises automatically and with heroic strength.
Now that you have learned more about Islam, you have not given up those values. You have simply added more information and more distinctions that you didn't have before.
You must see your interaction through this light. It will give you more empathy and less self-righteousness.
Your empathy will make your conversations much more pleasant and it will greatly improve your ability to educate. This ability to empathize is one of the things that makes a great leader great. And you are now a leader. You are leading people into the light of new knowledge, sometimes against their own resistance. That's what leaders do. You must see yourself as a leader and use empathy the way other great leaders have done.
To see a good example, watch the movie Invictus or read Mandela's Way or Long Walk to Freedom. Empathy is what made Nelson Mandela a great leader. His goals were against what people naturally wanted to do, especially people who were on his side. But he was able to see the world from his opponents' side, and was able to bring many of them onto his side. That's what a leader does.
If you want to increase your ability to educate people about Islam, you will cultivate a heartfelt, sincere, passionate empathy for your listener, and this will reduce or even eliminate self-righteousness as a barrier in your conversations.
Educating our fellow non-Muslims is the most important thing we civilians can do. Let's get it done.