August 25, 2017

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Have we looked at the beam in our own eye recently?

Cynthia DewesIntellectual arrogance has always bothered me. I certainly don’t mind people who are smarter than I am, since there are so many of them. But I don’t want to be condescended to by those who think they’re smarter than I am, and so always know the best and only way to go. I think we had an example of that in the last presidential election.

Certainty that they are therefore always right is another component of this fault. Not only do people like this insist on their opinion, but also they don’t bother to listen to any opposing argument. Besides being rude, it squelches any possibility of conversation. It’s their way or the highway.

Still another aspect of this condition is the tendency to judge others. After all, if we’re always right we must know what the others are doing wrong.

We feel a need to tell them about it or, failing that, tell everyone else what these folks are doing wrong. It’s our duty to keep everyone on the straight and narrow path of righteousness.

Speaking of righteousness, no one with the fault described above fails to feel righteous in their decisions, opinions and judgments. They’re confident that God is favoring them because of their virtuous efforts.

They can quote Scripture and verse to prove it.

Now, it has occurred to me more than once that the faults I find most offensive in others are often the very faults I find in myself. (Gasp!) Of course, this requires the admission that I have faults, which offends me to begin with. But it’s true, and I might as well face up to it.

This is where the sacrament of penance comes in. I think God, if not the priest confessor, must be sick and tired of hearing about the same old, same old sins over and over again. Surely, we could come up with something juicier than what we’ve been confessing for umpteen years? Not to mentions that we sometimes don’t even identify our sins correctly.

I say this because I’ve done it. At the risk of breaking the seal of the confessional, and as I’ve mentioned before, I often confessed the sin of pride. But one day my confessor brought me up short when he pointed out that I was not confessing pride but vanity. Pride is the sin of Lucifer, he said. He wanted to be equal to God. But vanity is a pathetic human trait that’s less grandiose and, indeed, somehow more humbling.

Now, I’m not claiming that the above‑mentioned are my only sins. They’re just the ones making my point: The faults that I find most offensive in others are the very ones in my own character. Hard to admit, but it’s true.

Instead of beating myself up over this, I’ve decided to use it as part of my penance. When I see someone dismissing another’s ideas, maybe I can listen more to what others are trying to tell me. When I hear another’s reasons for their behavior, maybe I should try to look at it from their point of view. And although I won’t admit this to my husband, perhaps I am not always right.

We have faults because we’re human. Only God is perfect. But as I always say, it’s a good thing that God is the one who judges, because I sure would be a lot harder on people—especially everyone but me.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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