Not as Bad as Others

It was an important exam and I failed. As the papers were returned, many students were joyfully talking and showing others the results of their hard work and the good grades they received.
But along with several others I sat there silently. It felt like a heavy load was put on my shoulders as I looked at my paper. There was no denying, and certainly no other option but to acknowledge that I failed. I slowly began to walk around the room and I looked at the papers of the other “silent ones” in the classroom.
When I noticed that several others had lower grades than me, my demeanor began to change. “So I didn’t do as bad as others.” The heavy load on my shoulders began to get lighter. I began to feel somewhat “better” about myself and my grades. It was sort of a comfort in the midst of the storm.
For just a second I thought about those who had the lowest grades and how bad they must be feeling – but that didn’t really matter since I was feeling better. Surely my grades were better than theirs. Although the reality of my failure did not change, all that mattered at that moment was that I felt better. Momentarily I found a way to justify my actions – my failure.
Over the years, I have mulled over that feeling many times. Its that feeling of “I’m not as bad as others – they are much worse.” Such a thought produces a good feeling for it allows me two comforts. First, I can ignore my own situation of failure by thinking of the failures of others worse than me. And second, I can enjoy that momentary comfort and feeling that I am somewhat better in spite of my circumstances.
Maybe Jesus was talking to someone like this when he said, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye ” (Matthew 7:3-5 ESV). These words of Jesus were directed towards the situation where one may openly judge and accuse another person. But here, we are dealing with an internal situation of the mind and heart. Others are not directly being affected, but it takes the form of an internal attitude. It’s sort of a “self talk” that may seem completely safe. Certainly not harmful to anyone.
While it may be harmless to others, it sabotages our opportunity to be real and broken with God. The Bible clearly says “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17 ESV). So the promise is clear that God “will not despise” the one who comes to him in brokenness.
Otherwise we ignore God’s mercy. Because of our inability to acknowledge our brokenness, we just can’t receive the love and encouragement that God gives us. Thus we continue in a cycle of justifying our actions at every stage of life.
But as we come clean with God, as we admit our brokenness and our need of him, we are able to enjoy the full benefits of being God’s child. We don’t need to hide from him. He won’t despise us. He won’t be angry with us. So go to him. He’ll accept you.
Have you been afraid to go to God with your brokenness? Share it here in the comments.
Photo by comedy nose

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