We Judge Others Strictly. Ourselves? Not So Much.

We are usually better judges of others than of ourselves. In fact, it is probably impossible to have an unbiased evaluation of the person whose teeth you brush, whose bills you pay, whose car you drive, whose body you inhabit—your own self.

We are simply too heavily vested in ourselves to be impartial judges of our motives, actions, and attitudes.

But what if I’m wrong about myself and need to know the truth? Maybe a close friend could tell me. But suppose everyone around me is afraid to tell me the truth. Or suppose I am so entrenched in self-deceit that others have given up on trying to convince me that I’m wrong. What then?

A glimmer of hope remains. For even when we fail to judge ourselves properly, our ability to judge others usually remains strong. Presumably, this is what Nathan the prophet knew when he told King David a story in which the villain was David himself. This detail, however, Nathan left hidden until David had pronounced judgment on his own character. David had not lost his ability to be enraged by theft, murder, and cruelty–he perfectly perceived it in other men.

To get David to see the truth about himself, it took Nathan’s holding a “portrait” up to David’s face, allowing David to condemn it, then telling him this “portrait” was actually a mirror. Here’s Nathan’s story:

There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”

Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”

Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” . . .

David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”

Of course, this account of David’s failure and repentance points to our need for a perfect King—a need which is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. But it also highlights the universal human tendency for self-deception and need for an outside source of truth. In light of this tendency, here are four truths I must keep in mind:

  1. I have a tendency to deceive myself (Jeremiah 17:9).
  2. Therefore, I need people who are loving and honest enough to tell me when I am wrong (Hebrews 3:13).
  3. If I want these people to tell me when I am wrong, I must prove to them that I am teachable and will not retaliate (James 1:19)
  4. I must filter my thinking and the feedback of friends through the only source of infallible truth—the Word of God (Psalm 19:11-12).
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