Recently I’ve been troubled by reports from various persons about a particular Christian employer X. While X is a leader in his church, a preacher, and workplace minister, X’s subordinates raised valid complaints about X’s behaviour and careless remarks. The biggest stumbling block for them, they say, is hypocrisy.
In Matt 7:5, Jesus calls out on hypocrisy. The hypocrisy He called out is our focussing on other people’s wrongs when we fail to deal with our own wrongs. He wants us to judge ourselves before we judge others.
But the truth is we will automatically judge people all the time. Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink, explains that we make snap judgments intuitively to go about our everyday life. Otherwise it’s impossible to make the thousands of choices we do each day. Can I trust this hawker selling me my cai fan? Is my colleague a person I can depend on for this project? And surely if someone behaves in a disappointing or wrong way, we would judge the behaviour and thus the person. If somebody cuts my queue or is unreasonably scolding a service staff, it would be impossible for me to say, “there is nothing wrong here”.
I think it’s inevitable we see the speck in other people’s eyes. The question is, do we then see the log in ours?
Perhaps Jesus’ teaching can be applied thus: if we observe any person doing wrong, our immediate response should be to first turn the ‘camera’ back at ourselves. Have I done this before?
Somebody cut my queue, and I was feeling irritable after a long, warm day. So without reflecting first, I said rather angrily, “excuse me you’re cutting my queue”. She insisted she was there all along. I said, “no, you were not, but go ahead anyway”. After I cooled off a bit, I reflected on how impulsive I was to do that.
The person could have been genuinely mistaken. I could have said it nicely. Indeed, the next few days, I found myself accidentally cutting people’s queues! But nobody angrily scolded me. So I felt like a hypocrite! I have learnt that before I react to anyone else’s wrongs, I should first deal with my own! I think one practical solution to hypocrisy, and indeed any positive character growth, is to ask for, and genuinely listen to, honest feedback about ourselves.
I was listening to a podcast interview with some management guru and he said the most important thing a leader should do is to listen to feedback. Indeed, God shapes people not merely by speaking audibly to them (which happens rarely in the Bible) but through self-reflection in the light of the Scriptures (Psalm 119:9; 139:23-24). And through other people in community (Hebrews 3:13).
I think the best feedback we can get is from people closest to us and whom we spend the most time with: our spouses, children, and parents, and our work colleagues. We unwittingly project a positive image of ourselves in church, online, or to the general public. But it’s difficult to do so when having a tiff at home or crisis at work. It’s in trials our character flaws surface.
The difficulty of getting honest feedback is we tend to make people who do give us feedback feel like we reject theirs. When we hear feedback but ignore it, or reject it, or become defensive, we forgo a valuable opportunity to grow in character.
I still struggle with this problem (especially when I have upset my wife!). I’m learning to change my default response from defensiveness to reception and gratitude—thank you for helping me grow.
My first response to hearing about X was disappointment. But I realised I needed to then search myself, and ask the people around me for their honest critical feedback about my own character. I ask my colleagues about how I am as a team mate and leader. I set and review my personal goals on character growth every year. I fail but I try again.
Our hypocrisy is one of the biggest stumbling blocks between non-Christians and the Gospel. Let’s work hard to deal with our hypocrisy. Every time we observe someone else’s wrongs, let’s turn it around ask ourselves how we too have done wrong.
We can start today: ask someone close to us for honest feedback about our character, and really listen. It will make us a better person and witness for Christ.
By Ronald Wong, Deacon (YCKC Bulletin for 28 July 2019)