Updated: Apr 25, 2021
When we want to improve ourselves, some people go on a journey of self-reflection. Some people take time out to ask God to help. I have been in a season I call "God help my self-reflection." I have learned that we often can find the very thing we despise in others in ourselves. You may want to read that last sentence again and a little slower. I have always had an issue with judgmental people. You should know me by now. I believe that there is a story behind why someone would say or act in a particular manner. When I hear someone making remarks about someone's character or behavior without attempting to consider how they got to that place, I get a bad taste in my mouth. One day I said, "God, why do people do that?" He said very plainly, "You tell me"? In case you missed it, let me help you. God pointed out that I was doing the exact thing that I claimed to hate. I was judging people for being judgmental.
Fortunately, it didn't stop there. God showed me that the things in others that I despise were a representation of myself in one way or another. I used to quote the phrase, "I hate a liar and a cheater," regarding men. God opened my eyes to see we have all lied and cheated in some form or another. Even a tiny lie when your best friend asked if she looked fat is still a lie. Even if you've never cheated in a relationship, but you stuck that extra mileage in your tax return, it's still cheating. I say these things because now when I'm quick to point out the ugly in someone else, I'd be remised if I didn't ask God to show me that in me. Why would I ask Him to do that, you say? Because, first, I want to make sure it's not there (more than likely it is), second, I want Him to show me. How else can I deal with it? Most of the time, we fail to recognize our flaws because we get hung up on others.
When I first started this "God help my self-reflection," I was overcome with shame. I was out here calling myself a Christian and a representative of God and acting like this. But God, in His grace-filled way, reminded me that there is no condemnation for those that are in Christ. Not only that, but this is part of His sanctification process. When we are "saved," we are saved from death and the world. The sanctification process is what saves us from ourselves. There's no magic wound, and now you've been remade just like Jesus. Where a lot of Christians and I get it wrong. Our eyes are not open up to see other's flaws; they are open to see our own. So, the next time you notice something about someone else that doesn't sit well with you, be humble and be bold and ask God the question, "show me that in me." Don't allow the enemy to bind you up in shame. Let humility and the grace of our Lord guide you into repentance and then forgiveness.
Yes, forgiveness. I used to stop at repentance because I knew I needed God to forgive me, but I learned that I needed to forgive myself. I needed to have compassion for myself before I could show empathy for others. I tend to be very hard and critical of myself, and God would say, "It's ok, cut yourself some slack." I learned to talk to myself like I would speak to a friend or my child if they made a mistake. I needed to forgive myself before I could forgive others graciously. There is an order to it. It's the reason Jesus said the most important commandments are to love God with all your heart, love yourself, and then your neighbor as yourself. Always, first God, that's why you repent, then yourself. Show yourself compassion, grace, and forgiveness. Then you'll be able to show that same compassion and grace to others. You'll know what it feels like to give it and receive it.
When I struggled even to decide to forgive people in my life that had wrong me, I used to tell myself they didn't deserve it, or I wasn't ready to let them off the hook. I know now that I didn't think I deserved it, and I wasn't prepared to let myself off the hook. What in me felt the need to hold someone else accountable while I had so graciously been freed? I was sexually molested as a child. Many people contributed to what happened to me, and I held grudges long into adulthood. Hurt people hurt people. The longer I held out on their forgiveness, I was hurting people, and the more people I hurt, the harder it was to forgive them. Why? Because first, I'd have to acknowledge my response independent of their offense. I'd have to come face to face with what I did as my own choice, not a reaction or response to what they did. Why was that my first reaction? Did I felt the need to hold them accountable by not forgiving them? That hurt carried on through me and led to me hurting many others. I had to acknowledge the reason I wouldn't extend forgiveness initially. In some way, I wanted to inflict pain also. Unfortunately, my resistance to forgive did inflict pain. I used, misled, and hurt people through my actions and attitude-fueled by my unforgiveness. When I repented and asked God to help me find the strength to forgive them, He showed me that I had to forgive myself first.
The next time you see something in someone you don't like, let God help you take the steps towards grace, compassion, and forgiveness of yourself, which leads to forgiveness of others.