In spending time with relatives and friends who are Christian, I notice two serious matters. One is that others are quicker to be positive and filled with praise than I am. And two, I am quicker to find fault with others than they are. While we are not to compare ourselves with others, this is God convicting me to examine myself.
The devotional verse for today hints at this problem, as does one of its cross references.
Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. (Proverbs 16:32)
A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. (Proverbs 25:28)
The author of the reading says, “More dear in the sight of God and His angels than any other conquest is the conquest of self, which each man, with the help of Heaven, can secure for himself.”
As I consider this and other verses and spiritual material, one article suggested that I pick one thing that stands out as a problem in my own life and focus on solving it. I selected discernment or judgment, which for me is a gift from God, but easily turns to a critical spirit. Discernment is important and given to Christians with the intent we use it to understand problems, issues, and the will of God concerning them. We need discernment to speak to needs (including my own) and to pray for others.
However, the abuse of discernment is letting the flesh run with it — by being harsh, critical, and demanding. It is using wrongly what God reveals as a problem to pray for, using it as a topic for gossip or tearing down someone else so I will look better than they do. This is the kind of “judgment” that Jesus forbids when He says,
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:1–2)
The rest of this passage says judgment is okay, but we first must have our own lives free from whatever faults we see in others. The idea of not judging until our own lives are in order runs contrary to that fleshy tendency to point out faults in those around us.
As Jesus says, the things I criticize most in others can be the very things of which I myself am guilty. I don’t like these sins and failures in me and seeing them in others reminds me of them. But instead of dealing with them in my own life, I focus my attention in the other direction. If I can keep my attention on someone else, I think I can avoid pressure on myself to change.
This is human pride, a large problem in the concept of self-control. If I am to rule my own spirit, then I need to engage in honest self-criticism. Whenever I am tempted to “discern a flaw” in someone else, I should first ask God to show me one of my own.
Search me O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24, KJV).
God shows me important steps toward self-control in the area of prideful discernment.
Forgiveness. If I am honest with myself, I know how proud, selfish, spiteful, jealous, inconsiderate and inept I can be. What right do I have to be intolerant or impatient with others? Am I harboring the foolish notion that I am perfect and have never needed mercy and forgiveness myself?
Look in the mirror. When I read the Word of God, apply it to myself — not just “first to me” but only to me.
Check my altitude. Am I doing things that most other Christians avoid? Does this indicate that I think myself stronger and less apt to fall into temptation, as if I am some super saint? Be real; fly lower.
What about my eulogy? When I near death, will I have pleasant memories of the way I have lived? Or will I be filled with sorrow and regret?
What do others say? Pay attention to any criticism or accusations. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6). Even if my enemies accuse me, the best response is to reflect and consider whether I am guilty of any charges against me.
Use others as a mirror. Nothing is more common than for proud people to accuse others of pride. When I discern others’ faults, immediately consider that I most likely have the same shortfall in my own life.
Remember the power of spiritual blindness. I know people can be proud, worldly, envious and unfriendly without knowing they are like that. Since I am a “people” I need to realize that others may see me more clearly than I see myself. Again, I need God to search my heart, particularly when I’m “discerning” the heart of another. If this discernment, He also gives a protocol for using it…
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. (Galatians 6:1)
If I don’t follow His protocol by first dealing with my own sin, then I too need restoration because I also have fallen into temptation.
Father, You have been showing me that I’ve allowed my ADD to keep me from staying with the lessons You have taught me. Instead of popping to the next thing as I usually do, I want You to work on this issue of pride in discernment until You have developed in me that self-control over my spirit that You value. Whatever it takes.