Don’t look for the good in others

We’re trained to look for the good in people.  As children, we’re fed taglines like “don’t judge a book by its cover” and “every cloud has a silver lining.”  And these are wonderful lessons for kids to learn to help them love their enemies and be kind to people.

But let’s be real.  We’re adults now, and we know boring books have boring covers.  We know there are some people that honestly don’t have much good in them at all, and it’d be a waste of time trying to dig it up.  Yet, we still live with this tricky command to love others as ourselves.  We’re told to not judge people and to always be kind, compassionate, and hospitable.

So we maintain this mindset of “looking for the good in others,” but I wonder if that’s what God wants us to look for.  Because by looking for what we deem to be “good,” we set the standard for what “good” really looks like.  We start to measure people’s “goodness” against our own, and that’s where we fail.

Maybe instead of looking for the good in others, we should look for the bad in ourselves.  Not that we should be self-degrading, guilt-ridden, or depressed, but rather mindful of the fact that we’re not above anybody.  Every time I think a negative thought about someone, instead of racking my brain to think of “good” things about him or her, maybe I should examine my own mind and heart for a little reality-check.

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Because ultimately, you’re just as bad as the person that annoys you. And the person that’s rude to you. And the person you can’t stand to be around.  Jesus looks at your sin with as much disgust as He looks at theirs, and that should bring us all down to the same level.

You might find this strange, but I keep a note on my phone for thoughts I have.  Sometimes they’re dumb.  Sometimes they don’t make sense.  And almost always, they’re completely random.  Well, on Christmas day last year, I wrote:

Inside every pearl is an ugly speck of dust.

Why I wrote it, I have no earthly idea.  But I’m glad I did because I still think it’s true, and it’s what prompted this post.  No matter how great something seems, if you dig deep enough you’ll find something ugly.  The reality is that we live in a fallen world, and we will never be perfect.  That role model, mentor, friend, or pastor you idolize into the shape of a pearl has a speck of dust deep down like everyone else.

…And when we tend to think we’re the pearl, we need to remember we have that same  dust in us too.

It’s what Jesus was getting at in Matthew 7:3-5 when He talked about removing the plank from your eye before trying to remove the speck from someone else’s.  We get accustomed to living with our own sins and issues and come to believe they’re normal, while others’ faults are appalling.  But the Lord disdains them all.  And instead of looking for the “good” in us, He decided to become our good.

So maybe we shouldn’t look for the good in others either.  Maybe we should show them through our words and actions that God is their good, as we keep in mind the harsh truth that our own hearts are just as ugly.  Instead of trying to mentally bring people up to our level, maybe we should lower ourselves to theirs.  And we should remember that we’re all just bits of dust and dirt trying to dress up as shiny pearls.

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