Who is the harshest judge in your life? If you are like most of us, your harshest critic is you. You know your secrets and what you hide from others. You know your fears and your unfulfilled goals and your lusts. You know the things that drive you from inside and you often don’t like them. Better than your mother or your spouse or your boss, you know your failings.
So you judge yourself.
I heard a man say that he was raised in such a way that he viewed any criticism as someone else’s problem. He said his mother taught him to think that way. So if his boss came to him with an issue, he immediately assumed the boss had a problem. Most of us are just the opposite. We see the boss coming and assume we did something wrong. We hear a general criticism of our group and take it personally. We are quick to accept negative judgment because we know the “truth” about ourselves.
So when someone comes along and says that we are saints and not sinners; that’s hard to accept. We just don’t feel good enough to be saints. We feel like sinners. We look inside and see all the urges and compromises and hypocrisy and weaknesses and we tell ourselves that we can’t really be what Jesus says we are.
But we can be what we are.
Now, I am not suggesting that we become insensitive to the input of others or ignorant of our own weaknesses. Instead, I am suggesting that we learn to look at ourselves as what we are, rather than as what we do. If we do that, we start from a different place. Instead of starting from the negative, we start from the positive. Instead of feeling defeated before we start, we can feel energized and hopeful. And, when we fail again, maybe we can remember that failing doesn’t make us failures. In fact, we pick ourselves up with the knowledge that what we just did was inconsistent with who we are and we want to be who we are.
We would be able to dismiss the criticisms that come from others much easier if we didn’t condemn ourselves. What really gets us is when someone gets on our case about something we already feel bad about. Think about this. If someone rips on something you feel good about, you wonder what’s wrong with them. You might get angry and you might feel rejected, but you walk away believing that the problem is theirs. If you already believe that you are a failure, and someone points out something you did that failed, you bring it into your heart and it reinforces what you already think.
Paul understood this. He put it all in context in just a few words in 1st Corinthians 4:
3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.
Because Paul does not judge himself, he is not concerned with the judgments of others. Now, how does he manage this? He goes on:
4 For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord.
“He who judges me is the Lord.” Paul looked to see what Jesus said about him and lived there. If Jesus said Paul was a saint, fully forgiven and filled with the righteousness of Christ, then it was true. If Jesus said that Paul had been washed from the stain of sin and that failures would not be added to his account with God, then it was true. That’s how Paul viewed his life and that’s how he was able to keep going in the face of serious opposition.
You and I don’t feel good, because we were trained not to feel good. We were told that our weaknesses and failures defined us. It was done to keep us in control and because those who trained us knew nothing else for themselves. It was done because someone believed that a negative view of ourselves would help us to stay away from sin. It didn’t work because it was a lie.
The truth not only feels much better but it works. If we rise in the morning believing that we are saved and forgiven and free, then we are much more likely to carry that perspective into our day and into the situations that challenge us.