Have you ever had someone make a rash judgment of your character based on only one situation where he or she observed you? I think we have all had that happen to us, and I know that I have been guilty of doing that to other people on many occasions. I have found that it is human nature to form conclusions. It takes only a matter of seconds when first meeting someone that our hearts decide whether or not we want to pursue a friendship with someone. I wonder how many times you and I have failed that initial test?
Recently I have been convicted of making judgments of people that come into my work on their cell phones. I immediately come to the conclusion that these people are rude and inconsiderate. Then there are others that come in and hardly respond at all when I ask them questions. In my mind, I form the conclusion that they are not kind people. Truth be told, I have never met these people, and I have no idea what is going on in their lives. I was humbled the other day when a customer hung up her phone and apologized profusely for her distraction, explaining to me that her daughter was in the hospital and she was trying to figure out some details. How many more people have I met with similar situations that have not taken the time to explain their particular story to me? What does that say about my character that I judged her before I even knew her?
Lest I become all too high and mighty, the other day I was at the store and I had just survived a rough day at work and in my personal life. As I was walking out to my car in the parking lot, it occurred to me that I had hardly acknowledged the person who checked me out. With only a couple short words, I was on my way. Here I had been criticizing customers that came into my work for treating me with apathy, yet I just pulled the same stunt on someone else. I guess a little bit of sawdust here and there can cause a lot of problems.
Is there anyone in the world who truly understands us? I would have to say that there are two people who know me well enough to explain the reasons behind my actions, and I think I am a lucky one to have two. However, even these relationships have their limits. At times, I wonder if I even understand myself, because I am often surprised at my reactions to certain situations. Human beings are so complex, and so many factors go into the making of who we are. Who really understands us except for God?
The longer I live, the more I realize that God should be the only one allowed to judge other people. There have been so many moments recently that I have longed for someone to look at my situation and just give me the benefit of the doubt. As infallible as I have imagined myself to be, I have fallen flat on my face in front of a crowd of onlookers. How humiliating is it to have your baggage laid bare before someone and you can’t deny its contents? Truth be told, there may be very good reasons behind every item, but hardly anyone ever takes the time to understand those reasons. They form a conclusion and walk away. How many thousands of times have I done that to someone else?
Luke 6:41-42 says: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
As a kid, even before I knew what the word hypocrite meant, I knew it was a bad word. I don’t care what religion or lack there of someone believes in, no one wants to be a hypocrite. There is not a person in the world who does not understand that actions speak louder than words. A man can tell a woman he loves her all day long, but if he does not show it by his faithfulness over time, there is no way on earth that she will believe his words for long. Along those same lines, I can say that I love and follow Christ, but if day in and day out I am criticizing others or am concerned with only my life and problems, who in their right mind is going to believe that I actually love and follow Christ? I see the sawdust in the eyes of those around me, but I miss the slab of wood awkwardly stuck in my own.
I know that at times I will succumb to what comes naturally and make a rash judgment about someone. I pray that God will immediately make me sick to my stomach when that happens, that I might recognize when I am treating something precious like it is junk change. Luke 6:38c says, “For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Likewise, I want to have compassion on others who make judgments about me, understanding that I have been guilty of doing the same thing so many times. Laying my pride aside, I pray that I might use that instance as another chance to forgive and grow rather than seeing it as a time to defend and wallow. How would I want others to treat me? I will treat them the same way. Besides the fact that it is Biblical, it just makes sense.
Everybody has a little bit of sawdust. I have a big giant plank. I pray that God might forgive me for the times that I have tried to look around that plank to remove someone else’s sawdust. May He give me a heart that sees others as He does and gives mercy where perhaps it seems undeserved. There may be no other place where mercy is more needed.