VERSE: “Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us: for we are exceedingly filled with contempt.” Psalm 123:3
OSWALD: “Refuse to be swamped with the cares of this life…[and] the lust of vindication. St. Augustine prayed – ‘O Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself.’ That temper of mind destroys the soul’s faith in God. ‘I must explain myself; I must get people to understand.’ Our Lord never explained anything; He left mistakes to correct themselves.” (November 23rd)
MY THOUGHT: In November 23rd’s entry, Oswald makes this statement: “The thing of which we have to beware is not so much damage to our belief in God as damage to our Christian temper.” The attitude from which we live our life. We must beware “the cares of this world,” Oswald says, “because they are the things that produce a wrong temper of soul.” But there is a second distraction that is just as deadly. The all-together-human fixation with vindication.
I sure wish I would have read this entry on the day it was assigned. Perhaps it would have prevented the emotional meltdown I had the day after Thanksgiving. It all started with a hurt feeling that leaked out coloring my words. When a loved one tried to point out a problem with my attitude, the way they did it only reinforced the hurt feeling. Suddenly I was desperate to vindicate myself. To explain away my bad temper as rational, while pointing out how off-base and hyper-critical they were.
As you might imagine, it didn’t go well. My pride collided with their pride and suddenly there was “wrong temper” and self-vindication all around. I spent the 45-minute drive home trying to make sense of a situation that had come out of nowhere. “I must explain myself,” I pouted aloud between my tears. “I must make them understand.”
My husband, John, prayed for me when I got home and that helped. As did the admission that when it came right down to it, pride and ego fueled my emotional reaction – whether I was right or wrong didn’t matter, it was my response to the situation that needed work.
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” As I lay on my bed praying, wise words from an ancient philosopher came to mind, echoed by Paul’s injunction in Romans 12:18 – “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Slowly, I realized there was only one thing to do. Wipe my eyes, blow my nose, and dial my loved one’s phone number. Then humble myself and apologize. Seeking first to understand, rather than demanding to be understood.
It wasn’t easy on my ego, but it was good for my soul.