Are We Hypocrites?
by Rev. Jack Peterson, YA
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Luke writes to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
Jesus told his disciples a parable, "Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own? How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,' when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother's eye.
"A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not pick figs from thornbushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles. A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks."
Every time Jesus says, “You hypocrites!” I admit I cringe. I cringe because hypocrisy really upset Our Lord — and I am a hypocrite.
An old Webster dictionary defines a hypocrite as: “One who feigns to be what he is not.” Another angle to the notion is that hypocrites tend to be critical of others when they do similar or even worse things themselves.
Jesus employs a terrific analogy to help make his point: “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?” Jesus may have intended to suggest that we are quick to point out a small fault in our neighbor when we ourselves have a much bigger, very obvious fault.
On the other hand, I am inclined to think Jesus is suggesting we enjoy pointing out the same faults in our neighbor that we share with them. Practically speaking, a splinter in your eye can be so painful and aggravating it feels like a beam. I think Jesus is saying you and I have similar splinters in our eyes, but I — rather than working on removing my splinter — choose to focus on “the beam” in your eye.
The struggle with hypocrisy represents one more area of our common, broken human nature where pride rears its ugly head. The sin of pride makes us want to call out the sins of everyone around us rather than humbly, quietly and honestly working to root out sin from our lives. We are deceived into thinking that calling out the sins of others will somehow make us feel better about ourselves. It just does not work and it grates on everyone who listens to us.
What is the solution?
Risking further hypocrisy, I will suggest a few efforts that might help.
Accept that you are a hypocrite, too. Most of us spend too much time being critical of those around us and dwelling on their faults.
Spend more time focusing on the strengths of those close to you at home, at work and in the neighborhood. Call out those gifts in others in conversation with them and encourage them to use their gifts and talents more often and with greater confidence.
Surrender your personal faults and weaknesses to God. Place them in prayer at the foot of the cross and beg Jesus’ grace in order to be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. If your faults and sins persist, consider getting outside help from a spiritual director or counselor or both, if your faults have had a grip on you for a long time.
In some instances, we may prayerfully discern that some form of fraternal correction needs to be offered to our friend or neighbor. If so, pray more about it and make sure that God confirms that inspiration. Then, consider asking someone else to offer the challenge, particularly if your anger level is still high. If you need to be the one to offer the correction, get advice from a wise person on the best approach. Pray again about it. Make sure you are offering the advice out of charity. Go to the person in private. If they do not listen to you, bring another person into the conversation. If they do not listen to both of you, and the problem is important, bring it to the church.
Trust that God has the definitive desire and power to transform our lives with his love and grace. “A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good… .”
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