One of the more difficult things in life is honestly looking in the mirror. We all want a mirror that distorts our true self, that makes us thinner and better looking. Yet seeing ourselves as we are, not as we wish we were might be the single biggest key to growth, maturity, productivity, and wisdom. If we are to grow we must know who we are, not who we think we are. To be productive, we must understand our skills and not think too highly of them or too lowly of them.
But most of us are like the cat in the picture above. We look in the mirror and what looks back is not reality, but our pride telling us we are better than we are. This is dangerous. Take our feline friend, since he thinks he is a lion he is going to out and attack the rottweiler next door and get torn into pieces. Most Americans think how they feel dictates how things really are. It is hard to imagine a more foolish way of living. Here is why you have a bunch of fools running around thinking they are wise, middle aged men believing they are sixteen, a twenty-two year old believing she has the wisdom of a sixty year old, fifty year old women thinking they are 25, and internet readers believing they know better than trained doctors. Just like that cat in the picture, when you are all by yourself it seems right. But then reality sets in. You are not a lion. You are small domesticated tabby cat. You are not that hip. You are really a slightly overweight middle aged man whose life is half over. You are not a sexy 25 year old. You are forty with wrinkles and sagging body parts. You are not that wonderful mature person who everyone should listen to. You are really a fool with little wisdom to offer.
Awareness: Nearly everything I am going to say I learned from someone else. Or, shall I say, lots of someone elses? We paid attention. We watched. We picked the families who had the sort of family life and children we desired and we copied them. We noticed the sorts of families whose kids were stinkers and we paid attention to that, too. Knowing what not to do is also important.
With our kids, we kept our antennae up. What is going on? How are they doing? Do they have bad attitudes? We weren’t perfect. Nor were they. But we tried not to be self-deluded. Many parents are painfully unaware that their kids are stinkers. Is your kid the sort that no one likes? If you know that, then half your battle is done. You can now do something about it.
But what if you don’t know? What if you are stuck in the delusion of sweetness when the little bugger is a playground bully? What if everyone knows his name because you have to say, “Billie, stop, Billie stop, Billie stop!”, sixty times, before he looks up to you with a blank stare or a bratty sneer?
Just wake up, mom. Just get real, dad. Once you get aware, things can get good. But if not, they will be breaking bad. [Pastor Virgil Hurt]
This applies to parenting, but also to the rest of life. See yourself as you really are, not as you wish, feel, or think you are. Are you like that stupid cat, looking in mirror pretending you are one thing when you are really another? Do you pretend you are a really important person because of some online friends? Do you think you are a great pastor because your church has grown a bit? Do you think you are a great parent because your kid is getting good grades? The number of ways we deceive ourselves is endless. Is it painful when we see ourselves rightly? Yes, but it is the only way to wisdom. The good news is that God is quick to forgive and can begin to work in us once we accept reality instead of pretending.
Let me close with two keys to this.
First and most obviously we must be reading the Bible. But the key here is to read Scripture with an eye to seeing ourselves, not to critiquing others. Scripture becomes impotent in our lives when the primary aim of our reading is what we can give to others instead of what the Lord wants us to repent of and learn.
Second, or maybe better 1b, is the fellowship of the saints. Too many Christians read the Bible, but neglect the fellowship of the saints. This means Sunday morning worship, the preached word, having dinner with other Christians, talking over coffee, play dates at the park, etc. Sunday morning worship is essential. Here the Word is brought. It is much harder to escape it here than it is in our daily Bible reading. But also we need to be around other Christians. We don’t fellowship so we can eye other Christians up and down and figure out where they are wrong. We watch so we might see our faults. We see our children playing with other children and learn that they are not as kind as we thought. We have dinner with Christian friends and spend the whole time talking about ourselves. We see spouses being patient with each other and realize we are not that patient. Being around other Christians is essential to a proper view of ourselves.
Don’t be like that stupid cat. Stop pretending. Look with clear eyes at who you are and then look to God for grace to change and grow.