A TOXIC HABIT

As the world seems to spin out of control and many ask if we could indeed be witnessing the end of the age, a more important question looms in my mind.

What if that’s true?  Then what does that mean for me right now today?  How should the possibility that the coming of the long-awaited Messiah is drawing near affect my present lifestyle, decisions and behavior?

One issue comes to mind.  I quote from Frederick Faber, a noted hymn writer and theologian of the 19th century:

The habit of judging [others] is so nearly incurable, and its cure is such an almost interminable process, that we must concentrate ourselves for a long while on keeping it in check, and this check is to be found in kind interpretations.

We must come to esteem very lightly our sharp eye for evil, on which perhaps we once prided ourselves as cleverness.

We must look at our talent for analysis of character as a dreadful possibility of huge uncharitableness. We are sure to continue to say clever things, so long as we continue to indulge in this analysis; and clever things are equally sure to be sharp and acid.

We must grow to something higher, and something truer, than a quickness in detecting evil.

Those words were penned in the 1800’s but are perhaps even more relevant today.  One writer stated that most people engage in judging others – usually negatively – several times a day.  He opines that it is such a habit in our modern society that we don’t even take note of it anymore.  The tendency to be harshly critical of others causes untold friction, tension and conflict, not to mention how it poisons our own mental and spiritual health.

One thing seems to stand out as a common trait of critical and judgmental people.  They are first and foremost deeply self-critical.  Their self-respect is desperately weak because their self-worth is nowhere to be found. Being judgmental and critical towards others serves to relieve that inner self-loathing by casting it on one’s neighbors, co-workers or family members.

If there has ever been a time to cling to the words and ways of God as given to us in the Torah, it’s now.  The greatest commandment is to “love God with our whole heart, soul and strength”.  The second is to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

The person who engages in habitually taking notice of the faults and weaknesses of others betrays himself first for it is a truism that we humans are most inclined to criticize that which we do not like in ourselves. To be sure, there are public behaviors that are wrong; the scriptures allow for recognizing sin but gives us no excuse to cease loving the individual.

You may not be of the opinion that we are in the end of days; you may not be expecting the Messiah to appear. Nevertheless, the admonition is appropriate for all of us at all times.  Judging others is a toxic habit which we do well to eliminate from our thinking and speaking.  It is impossible to know another person’s heart motive; often we don’t even know our own!

The prophet Samuel was thus rebuked by God: “Man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart.”

We all hope that God will indeed see our heart’s intent toward good, even when we miss the mark.

Should we not give the same generosity to our fellow man?

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The Challenge: Choose a specific number of days – say 7 or 10 or whatever number you decide – and determine to think only the BEST of everyone around you throughout that time period.

Let us know in the comment section what effect this had on you!