An Exercise in Thought
If I asked you to make a list of your top five shortcomings, what would they be? I will share mine with you:
- As a child, I believed there could only be ONE “best friend”, and I wanted to be it. One particular time, I remember trying to sabotage the relationship between two of my girlfriends. I told them each a lie, and later got caught in it. I held in my heart, and still grapple with, a desperate need for being loved.
- In college, there are multiple roommates I wish I had treated better. It is STILL a lesson God is teaching me, that love is more important than being “right”.
- During my dating years, there are also people I wish I had treated better. I didn’t understand the impact my actions could have, and honesty would have been the better course had I been brave enough to take that route.
- Serving in my church, and in other areas of my life, I often stress more about perfection than feeling Jesus’ love. I wish I could let that go!
- I am still learning how to regulate my social media use, including WP 😬. I wish I put it down more for my kids, instead of treating them like they are the interruption, which is completely backwards!
Now, if I asked you to list the top five passions/issues that are closest to your heart, what would they be? Here are mine:
- Making sure my family knows I love them, and that Jesus loves them.
- Making sure my friends and loved ones know I love them, and that Jesus loves them.
- Being intentional about the way I spend my time.
- Being honest, authentic, and genuine in my interactions with others.
- Understanding that validation, acceptance, and love, must come from WITHIN before anywhere else.
Isn’t it ironic how parallel the two are?
Truthfully, I arrived at the issues that I care about because I fail so miserably in those arenas. I know what it is to miss out on passing that message along — the message that I love Jesus. I love you! And I love myself.
Hypocrisy, Without Guile
Sometimes, writing about faith, growth, and identity can feel inauthentic for this reason.
How can I preach an attribute that I have yet to fully attain? Hypocrisy is never my intention, but perfection is also not in my earthly future. Perhaps you can relate.
So, how can you better speak the things of your soul without hypocrisy? Can you stay true to where you came from, and yet, have hope for where you want to go? I guess what I’m asking is:
What does it truly mean to live with integrity?
Though I’m no expert, I have a few ideas I’d love to share, along with hopefully hearing yours!
#1: Nowhere does it say “perfection required”.
Several words stand out to me among these definitions: character, source, sincere, honest, experienced, true, free from pretense, adherence, incorruptibility (principled), soundness, completeness, undivided — but neither specifies “perfection”.
Instead, these words get at the heart and intention of a person. Is your motivation piety? A need for validation? Or love for God and your fellow men?
#2: Tell a story.
Saying, I know where you’re at because I’ve been there, goes a long way. But you take it a step further when you share a personal example.
We all want relation and connection by nature of being human! We don’t want to be talked down to, even from someone with the best intentions. Telling your story helps you send the message: You are not alone. You are not my inferior; you’re my friend.
This is something I am working on myself. Many of my stories are deeply personal or involve those who haven’t chosen this platform for themselves. But it’s something I think about, and, especially in person, I try to build that connection wherever I can.
#3: Cultivate an attitude of faith.
Two stories from scripture also come to mind.
Lot was warned:
Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.
Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.Genesis 1: 17 24-26
Lot’s wife had faith enough to go with him! But her heart was in the past.
Peter, when He saw Jesus walking on the water said,
Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And [Jesus] said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?Matthew 14: 28-31
Perhaps then, this loss of faith in ourselves, comes as we turn back, or turn toward our fears, instead of looking forward with an eye of faith toward Jesus.
#4: Be forgiving of yourself and others.
In other words, be willing to give it to God. We are fallen by nature. We are going to mess up. But God knew that. Jesus came to Earth to teach us the way, yes; but He also came to be the way. He suffered for our sins, even unto the mere temptation, and then He overcame!
So the next time you find yourself lacking, remember His love. More than that, extend that same grace to those who may injure you.
“Judge not, that ye be not judged”, and, when discernment must fall to you, remember “with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7: 1-2 KJV).
Many friends and roommates have stuck with me through difficult times, and I will forever be grateful for their patience with my growth. For those amends I could not make, I pray that one day I will be given the opportunity and the words, and trust in His plan.
#5: A Less Traditional Definition of Hypocrisy
This one is from the mouth of my better half. He told me, most often, people understand hypocrisy to be: “Do as I say, not as I do”, and yet we all fall short of even our own ideals.
Another way to look at hypocrisy might be, “Don’t expect something of others that you aren’t willing to expect of yourself, and do your best to achieve that.”
My husband went on to describe how, even in the Bible, Jesus generally saved the term “hypocrite” for the pharisees — not the sinners — not because they were fallen, but because they considered themselves to be above Jesus’ teachings.
I am reminded of one teaching in particular:
If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.Matthew 19: 21
The takeaway being:
We may not be perfect, but we can get our hearts right! So, while I’m still a work in progress, I promise — my heart is there. More than anything, I want to share His light.
Here’s to finding that beacon of hope, comfort, and love for yourself, and holding fast when you do, because life is too short to let our mistakes keep us from it.