We have all been burned. We have all been subjected to situations where wish things had been different. Different words, different tones, different lines of reasoning, and different levels of respect. We have all been subjected to other people’s sin issues and weaknesses. This is just part of being human. Maybe it was a boss at work. Maybe it was a friend. Maybe it was a parent. This creates hurt in our lives.

In addition to hurt from our past, we are constantly processing and assessing different situations, personalities, and controversies. He said, she said. That leader did what? Did you hear about so and so? We live with the front page news staring us in the face.

As I attempt to diagnose my own heart, these two scenarios form one of the great battlegrounds of pride. As I consider those who have hurt me in the past or situations today where someone “just doesn’t seem to get it,” my assessment can quickly default into the Pharisaical position of smug superiority. I have practically memorized the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, and yet I still find myself, over and over again, in the position of the Pharisee.

I default into a man who smugly stands afar with his arms crossed and internally says, “This idiot over here doesn’t have it together like me.” Usually this is in the name of “what I am learning” or “standing up for the truth,” but often I glean a keen sense of subtle superiority from gossipy conversations with others about others.

There is certainly a time to stand up for the truth, to dissect sin issues of others, to assault heresy, talk about a foolish public figure, and/or process a painful past. In a fallen world, it has to be this way and always will be until the coming day when Jesus makes all things right. But the greater question concerns our posture. What emotions do we carry? What conversations do we have with others? What is the tone and content of those conversations? Do we have a “I sure am glad I’m not like that idiot” attitude? Or, “How in the world could he screw that one up so badly?!?!?” As if people have never wondered those same questions about me.

Controversy is always going to swirl around us, especially in the information age. Jesus’ teaching about the plank and the speck remains timelessly simple yet painfully difficult to apply in daily living. Having a plank in your own eye doesn’t dismiss the speck, which must be dealt with. But having a gaping plank of sin in your own eye will probably alter the manner and measure with which you remove your brother/sister’s speck.

So as you process the mistakes people made in the past that have deeply affected you, or you look around today and assess different issues, controversies, or personalities, does your default setting lean towards smug superiority or repentance?

Sadly, I know that I am too often the Pharisee. Pharisees need Jesus. Pharisees can be forgiven, too.

God chooses to use us in spite of our weaknesses. It’s hard to read the Bible and not see that as a theme through almost every narrative. Moses was a murderer, Noah was a drunk, Abraham was a liar, David was a murderer and an adulterer, and Peter was a loud-mouthed racist. I am so thankful that God chose to use those men in spite of their glaring weaknesses. I pray he uses me too.