The Same Balance

How seldom we weigh our neighbor in the same balance with ourselves. ~ Thomas a’Kempis

Several years ago, my friend told me about an email she had received–one of those forwards that keep getting forwarded. It was a “I said/you said” type of thing about the way we compare ourselves with others, and went something like this:

  • When I tell you something negative about yourself, I am telling you the truth. When you tell me something negative about me, you are just being critical and negative.
  • I am brutally honest, you are overly sensitive.
  • When I’m difficult, it’s because I had a bad day and need understanding. When you are difficult, you are just being a jerk.
  • When I say something hurtful, it was an accident and I didn’t mean to say it. When you say something hurtful, you were being deliberately nasty.
  • When I hurt you, I want you to forgive me. But when you hurt me, I will never, ever forgive you.
You get the idea, I’m sure. This has really made me think, and has changed my life. I have observed that rarely do people make comparisons fairly or honestly, comparing their strengths with others’ strengths, or their weaknesses with others’ weaknesses. Instead, people compare their strengths with others’ weaknesses, especially if they are speaking about or to someone they don’t like. They make the balance unfair, so of course they will come out appearing wonderful and the other person appears like wretched scum!

I believe that there really are jerks who deliberately do and say nasty things to others. There really are wicked people who do not care about others. However, most people are a mixture of good and bad characteristics, not all good and not all bad. Too often we condemn others and excuse ourselves for doing the exact same things!

I realize that I have this same tendency within me to put my actions in a good light and my “enemies” actions in a bad light. However, since I’ve recognized this, I try to honestly use the same standard, the same balance, with myself and others. If I want people to be understanding of me on a bad day, I try to be understanding of them on a bad day. If I want others to realize that I didn’t mean to hurt their feelings, then I recognize that maybe they also didn’t want to hurt mine. This practice has really helped me to be more compassionate and more forgiving, even of people who aren’t nice to me.

As Romans 2:1-4 says:

 1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? 

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