A common sequence of events in a person’s spiritual journey:
At first, one simply cannot tolerate people who are unscrupulous regarding certain laws.
He may react scornfully to people who neglect to perform the ritual washing of the hands, or who are careless when they trim their fingernails.
As a result, he doesn’t want to be around them, so he removes himself from society.
After a while, this scorn for others becomes a source of vitality and pleasure for him.
Before, he may have slandered others simply because he was haughty, whereas now all of his vitality comes from this vice.
When one’s fault becomes a flag and a banner, this is a much more serious problem.
At first he viewed this character trait as a vice; now that he indulges in it enthusiastically, it is like putting a stamp of spiritual approval on an evil attribute.
While beforehand he engaged in slander occasionally, now it is his whole life.
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz