For years – OK, actually three decades – I refused to read anything I wasn’t being graded on. And, even then, my best friend was a little yellow and black striped publication called Cliff’s Notes. But, since I turned 30, I have been a reading fool. Since January 2004, I have read at least 85 books, many twice. According to recent studies, that is about 75 books more than the average person read over that same time period. Yay me!
My goal when selecting a book to read – whether it’s the Bible, a novel, or a book on leadership, is to personally benefit from the wisdom the author shares – to apply bits and pieces to my life and influence others in a positive way. But, while this is my intent, it’s funny what happens when I begin to read. I become a Pharisee.
I don’t know about you, but many times I’ll be reading a profound truth, and instead of looking inward and prayerfully considering how I can change for the better, I’ll say something like, “That perfectly describes so-and-so. If only he/she could read this…”
But, here’s the deal. More than likely that person in my mind – or yours – who would benefit greatly or improve themselves in our eyes by reading these nuggets of wisdom, wouldn’t get anything at all out of it, because they’d be thinking of other people, too, when they read it! It’s a vicious cycle!
Some of you right now are reading this, and you’re saying to yourself, “This article is right on the money! Johnny – or Sally – needs to read this! They are ALWAYS so critical other people, and rarely heed their own advice.”
Here’s what Jesus had to say about that: “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.
“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5 (NLT)
Is it wrong to automatically think of others’ shortcomings when you read the Bible, or an Andy Stanley book? According to Jesus, it sounds like that’s the case. This is so tough. We all have people we love, work with, live with, spend a lot of time with. We spend enough time with these people that we actually begin to see the chinks in their armor. And, if we’re not careful, that is what we wind up focusing on – their flaws, imperfections, and inadequacies.
If you really have an issue with someone, speak with that person and do it humbly with love. But, don’t let it fester. And, if you find yourself never trying to improve in any areas in your own life (or maybe you think you’re perfect), you’re on the road to alienating everyone who knows you.
In the end, it’s the attitude of your heart that dictates the amount of joy you bring into your life, and into others’ lives. If we really want to see other people change, then we have to be willing to change. When we seek God, with the goal of becoming a better friend, better father, better co-worker, etc. and we put those thoughts into action, we’ll all be shocked to see how the pieces fall into place – far better than we could have imagined!
Oh, and don’t pass this on to anyone else. This, bud, ‘s for you.