I think sometimes, when we are trying to judge ourselves and those closest to us, that we sometimes feel we have a crystal ball into the past, present, and future of hearts and intentions. We think, through our perspective, we can see clearly; but, at the same time, know instinctively we are likely blind to our own “beams.” The question is, how to we judge accurately when we know we are simultaneously blind?
Though I try to be spend some quiet time in self reflection and scripture study every day, and often have little insights that help me as a result; I cherish those rare, remarkable, earth-shattering epiphanies. I recently had one I’d like to share because it relates to Justice & Mercy (Isaiah 1:16–18), and how to judge more righteously. The epiphany came from Terry C. Warner’s article “What We Are.” His premise is that every day we are confronted with choices: (1) We can follow promptings of all those little things we simply know we should do; or (2) We can miss those promptings, and as a result we simultaneously justify ourselves by blaming others.
Here’s an every day example he gives: a man wakes up at 2:30 when his newborn baby starts to cry. For a brief moment, he thinks he can get up and settle the baby back to sleep before the cry wakes his spouse. He thinks he should catch the baby. But he doesn’t. He rationalizes he has to work early. He tells himself that it’s his wife’s job to care for the baby—and why isn’t she waking up yet? He reminds himself that she was so pushy to insist on having a baby at this critical point in his career. And why should he lose sleep over her pushy decision? He rationalizes that he’s never been good with babies…and on and on.
I think we can all see ourselves, or perhaps—too easily—our spouses, children, and other close relationships in this scenario!
Unfortunately, while we can see the patterns of self justification disrupting our relationships, the underlying reasons can’t be seen by self analysis alone. The habits that blinded us in the first place have been engrained so deeply through familial and cultural modes of thinking, that we are unable to see clearly. Warner calls it “self-deception.” And deception wouldn’t be very effective if the truth were easy to see. So what is the answer?
Warner simply suggests: stop.
When you catch yourself feeling angry at another person for their behavior, just stop. When you feel yourself being frustrated because you’ve done “all you can do” and nothing is improving, just stop.
Next, ask yourself a simple question: what prompting did I miss? What should I be doing right now?
If you’re really ready to follow it, the answer will come. Odds are, it won’t surprise you, and you will recall the many times you’ve resisted the idea.
Finally, follow the answer.
I know for me, this step creates an amazing result. If I’m really humble; if I’m really willing to admit that my logic has been insufficient; if I’m really submissive enough to follow the prompting this time…something magical happens. By Divine design, all my negative feelings disappear. Suddenly, I see the “enemy” through a lens of clarity; I get a peek into the spiritual capacity of the other person; I am filled with compassion for their struggles; and I feel nothing but love for them.
I am finally able to judge them, myself, and the situation righteously. I am reminded of Isaiah 1:16-18 all over again, when I realize that I am still learning the balance between justice and mercy.
For that one interaction, the cycle stops. True peace floods hearts, connection happens, understanding flows, and the feeling is glorious. Will you join me in a commitment to stop, ask, and follow more often?