There's a particular type of self-satisfaction where a person feels good about themself because they see a flaw or a weakness in someone else. "I'm good because someone else is worse."

It often manifests itself in a religion context: feeling good because someone else is a "sinner". It also manifests itself by feeling good because one is more clever or knows more than someone else. It's the "beam" in the saying "Why do you see the mote in someone else's eye but not the beam in your own?" Is there a word or term for it?


2 Answers 2


Well, in the parable about the Pharisee who self-congratulated himself (while praying) for being righteous, compared to the tax collector who simply and honestly acknowledged his faults, (Luke 18:9-14) the implication is that he was self-righteous, trusting in himself instead of having real faith in God, which is what the tax-collector had.


There are so many words, depending on the context.

For someone who thinks they know more than those around them, we could say:


too pleased or satisfied about something you have achieved or something you know:

The look is sometimes described as...

"...looking like the cat that just got the canary"

People of God are often described in the Bible as "righteous men" (or women, of course), but those who feel they stand on firmer moral ground than others around them can be termed as:


believing that your ideas and behaviour are morally better than those of other people

This word is not necesarily limited to a religious context: so-called "Social Justice Warriors" also seem to fit into this category.

Synonyms for this adjective include...

sanctimonious, self-satisfied, smug, priggish, complacent, pious, moralizing, preachy, superior, hypocritical; informal goody-goody

But my favorite is "holier-than-thou", and for SNL fans, there is of course the Dana Carvey characterization of the "Church Lady". For those of us who grew up under the very heavy hand of such moralyzing and preachy parents, there is no more apt portrayal than that.

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    The question asks to name the feeling not a name for one feeling it
    – Kris
    Jan 1, 2017 at 4:19
  • qkris The OP specifically mentions self-satisfaction in the Q, and self-satisfied is listed as a synonym of self-righteous: the adjectives had no problem when made in comment, so whats the deal....? Jan 1, 2017 at 17:13
  • There is not really an English word for the feeling associated with self satisfied due to the failings of others Schadenfreude is a German word for it search this site for an interesting read on Schadenfreude. All the words we have are adjectives describing the person who thus feels superior not the feeling itself
    – Kris
    Jan 1, 2017 at 23:18
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    @Kris. I've found the discussion and the links very helpful. I don't think there is an expression that captures it exactly but "overweaningly smug" comes close. It's expressed well in Luke 18:11 "God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are..."
    – Al Maki
    Jan 2, 2017 at 17:33
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    @AlMaki I do not know who you want to apply the adjective to, but they must be an unbearably difficult person to be around. Jan 2, 2017 at 17:37

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