Nov 212014 8 Responses

Why Can’t We See In Ourselves What We See In Others

I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the Facebook post, but I could be wrong.

Clearly someone thought I was wrong.

I was in Wal-Mart and happened to wander into their book section. The most prominent book displayed in the Christian section was a book allegedly about Biblical prophecy. In my theological opinion it has nothing to do with prophecy or the Bible. It’s a get-rich-quick scheme based on scaring people into thinking the world might end tomorrow because of how poorly our political opponents are acting.

So I took a picture and made a slightly humorous comment showing I didn’t support the book.

Many people responded to the post—some in support, some attempting humor, and some disagreeing. It was an engaging thread until someone took deep exception to my post. They didn’t just disagree with my point, they made deep judgments about my heart. They questioned my role as a pastor; let it be known they would never visit the church I pastor, discouraged others from attending, and while admitting pastors are human said we should live to a higher standard than I was doing.

When I read the critique, two thoughts quickly passed my mind.

First, I wondered am I guilty of what the person is accusing? Anytime someone accuses us of something, we should consider their point. Even if we do not like their approach, we should examine our hearts to see if they need to be corrected. Maybe the post was out of bounds. Maybe it didn’t accomplish what I wanted. Maybe there was a better way to go about it. (See: Criticism–How to Listen When Others Speak)

Secondly, I wondered why I can’t see in myself what is so easy to see in others. In other words, how do I fail the way this person failed?

Notice the irony of the comment: a Christian took to Facebook to tell me on Facebook that I should never critique another person on Facebook. As a pastor, they thought I should know better and they were appalled at the condition of my heart which would allow me to be so negative.

My five-year-old self wanted to respond: “So you don’t want me to do to others what you just did to me?” But my 36-year-old self restrained my childish response and instead asked the question: “Why can’t I see in myself what is so obvious in others.”

It’s easy to see fault in the lives of other people. They are selfish, condescending, childish, petty, rude, mean, short-sighted, and often wrong. And it’s not just that they are all of those things, but they are all of those things in blatant and obvious ways.

Yet common sense tells me I’m not unique. Whatever is so obvious to me about other people is likely very obvious about me to other people. While I may not sin in the exact way as someone else, I no doubt sin to the same degree and frequency. So why is it so easy to see in others but so difficult to see in myself? (See: Stop Breaking the Ninth Commandment on Facebook)

What are some ways I condemn in others the very thing I’m doing?

Of course it is much more difficult to see our own sin and shortcomings because it takes maturity to do so. A child can easily point at their sibling and tattle. But it takes real maturity to step outside of ourselves, look at our actions objectively, and judge our thoughts or actions as inappropriate. Then it takes tremendous humility to admit fault and confess our imperfections.

Attacking other people is much easier than reflecting on our own actions.

Yet we must do the hard work. (See: How to Respond to Mean People)

We cannot go through life writing the story that we are good and everyone else is bad. We cannot make it our call in life to point out the faults of everyone else. We must do the mature work of looking at our own lives.

This doesn’t mean we can ignore our responsibility to stand up for truth. Bad actions, ideas, and beliefs do need to be confronted. We can’t remain silent. We must walk the fine line of standing on the side of truth with humility and self-confession.

Here are three questions which should help us look first at ourselves before others:

1. Whenever we are outraged by others, ask: What is it within me that causes me to be so outraged by them? Turn the focus back on your heart and your actions.

2. Whenever we are quick to assume we are holy and someone else is not, ask: What are some ways I sin in a similar fashion to how they are sinning? Refuse to fall for the delusion that I’m morally superior to others.

3. Whenever we are tempted to point out something which is wrong, ask, How can I highlight disagreement with an action or idea without attacking the person’s heart?

I’m still open to the thought I shouldn’t have posted what I did on Facebook. I don’t think I was wrong, but maybe I was. I’m convinced the book is bad and should not be supported, but maybe my attitude was not appropriate. (See: Drama Addicts–Why Your Friend is Always Stressed)

Yet I wonder less about that one post and more about the posts, comments, and actions which I don’t even recognize are wrong. I’m afraid I’m doing to others what I do not like done to me. And I’m doing so with out even seeing it.

 

8 Responses to Why Can’t We See In Ourselves What We See In Others
  1. Andrea Allise Reply

    Wow. On point, Mr. Thompson. Very much looking forward, with great fear mind you, to take the insight with me into the hospitality workplace, the home front and all run-ins with people. Thank you for taking the time to share understanding.

  2. Ed Saucier Reply

    I admit my first thought when I read the original post was that it had the potential to offend some people. But since I agreed with it I was just glad you posted it, which means I didn’t care if it offended some people. And that means I didn’t see my thoughts or attitude as being calloused toward those people. I’m grateful for the reminder to look inside a little longer and a little deeper more frequently.

  3. Vela Reply

    I enjoyed reading this article and I agree that the ability to handle criticism and caustic comments from others requires a great deal of emotional maturity. We human beings are not as logical and rational as we think we are. Our actions are greatly influenced by our emotions and all that is buried in our subconscious. A little stimulus can trigger the subconscious into releasing emotions that make us say and do things we would not normally do. Road rage is an example of this kind of behaviour. The caustic comments you received to your post is another.

  4. Jerry Medlar Reply

    I just found your blog today through a reposting of one of your articles on Deseret News. I read a couple of your articles on marriage to my wife and we loved them both. I found this one very thought provoking. It is hard to see the real us without the help of feedback from others, as painful as it might be. Keep up the good work in sharing your insights. I wish I had been as wise at your age.

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