A true understanding and humble estimate of oneself is the highest and most valuable of lessons.  To take no account of oneself, but to always think well and highly of others is the highest wisdom and perfection. Should you see another person openly doing evil, or carrying out a wicked purpose, do not on that account consider yourself better than him, for you cannot tell how long you will remain in a state of grace. We all are frail; Consider none more frail than yourself.

-Thomas a Kempis, Inner Life

 

I can remember sneaking around our dark-musty and damp basement as a kid one fall day looking for some of my Christmas presents that my parents had went out and purchased a little early that year (I had inside information).  Looking back as worse as I can remember, I don’t feel so bad about my doing the bad deed as much as I do about dragging my younger sister into the shame of it.  After not too much rummaging around, I found it, the jackpot—what looked to be a sleeping bag—and a nice one at that.  I couldn’t fully open it as it was already wrapped and seeing I’d have to put back together any unwrapping job I did to keep my mischeviousness under wraps—I wasn’t able to decipher exactly what brand or color it was.

Not too long after, Christmas day rolled around.  And was I jazzed.  I had been waiting months for my new sleeping bag.  When it finally came time to open up the thing I ripped it open as I was fond of doing and blurted out without an ounce of hesitation—I thought it was blue the first time saw it! 

I was cooked, the thing was hunter green. 

Many times what we think we see isn’t even close to what we think it is.  No where is this more evident than in the way we judge one another.  One of the most horrendous things we can do is look down on and greatly mischaracterize one another.  Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me may be repeated on playgrounds, but you won’t read the words in Scripture.  We shred one another with the the words we whisper without ever picking up a pair of shears.  We size one another up by what we say and by what we don’t say, by the the things we do or don’t do—or most of the time—what we think was said or done.  Essentially, we save our harshest judgements for the way things look.

I call it guilty by speculation.

Jesus instructs his disciples:

It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this I-know-better-than-you mentality again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your own part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.   (Luke 6:41-42, The Message Bible)

Often, what our assessments of one another are built on is what we have heard—based on someone elses’ selfish and twisted agenda. When we gossip, we are not re-telling the truth to get the story straight—no—we are telling it most often to verbally crucify someone or make ourselves look or feel better.  

 

God help us.

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