There is a kind of blindness that no ophthalmologist can diagnose. It is a subtle ailment. It is a common ailment. And it is a divisive ailment. I don’t know of any specific name for it that would differentiate it. It is something like judgmentalism, and it resembles hypocrisy, but it really isn’t either of those conditions. The issue is really a chronic case of overlooking.
When it comes to seeing the faults that are far from us, separated from our daily routine, and distant in general we have incredible vision. Our ability to see long-range when it comes to faults that aren’t our own is impeccable. We are, from the earliest age, more like moral snipers than foot soldiers. As children we can see the faults of our friends and how they are selfish, mean, and unfair. And we can usually do this while we are tightly gripping our toys, rubbing our sore fists, and mentally re-writing the standards that we hold our friends up to.
This happens as adults as well, it’s not something we naturally grow out of. In fact, truth be told, we grow more firmly into it if we don’t intentionally try to distance ourselves from these tendencies. We’ve either been with someone, or were ourselves the someone, who talked in whispers about how much someone gossips. Perhaps we’ve snidely referred to someone’s level of prosperity while we have a full plate, working heat/air conditioning, and bed to sleep in. It seems to be a common human quality that when any kind of moral heat is turned up in our direction our first instinct is to point at someone else. “But they did…” “Oh, she had…” “I’m not as bad as…” “At least I wasn’t….”
I’ve shared several quotes and stories from the book I’m reading about Martin Luther King Jr’s life, but a reflective sentence I read today reminded me of my own tendency to look “out there”, when most of the time the problem is “in here”. King, speaking of President Eisenhower’s inactivity, and then poorly planned activity, said this:
Nevertheless, it was strange to me that the federal government was more concerned about what happened in Budapest than what happened in Birmingham.– Martin Luther King Jr.
For the sake of context, King admired Eisenhower and thought of him as a moral, upright man of integrity and character. However, when it came to the new and sensitive issue of racial justice at the dawn of the most significant equality movement in the nation’s history, Eisenhower preferred to ease in to things, and largely ignore the immediate injustices rather than make waves with support for sweeping reforms.
We are not much different. It’s easy to point the finger. As long as the problems are always somewhere else we neither have to work at anything or admit who we really are. We prefer the sanitized opinion of ourselves that we have attempted to project to the public (our adoring fans) than the one that honestly looks into the heart of who we are and recognizes the flaws and failures of our lives. This is difficult, at least in part, because in that moment, when we expose ourselves to ourselves and realize that we have been unable to fix ourselves by ourselves, we are forced to seek out a hero, a savior.
Ah but the glorious truth is that in the moment that all the fingers are pointing at us, from our own hand, we find that there is a Messiah who stands at the ready to rescue, deliver, and bring justice into our hearts and lives.