I’m tired of being a careless slob. A month ago I damaged a brand new orange purse by tossing a permanent black pen into it. The ink seeped through the lining and left a quarter-sized, unbudgeable blob on the leather. The same kind of black pen left a conspicuous mark on the front of a pair of tan pants. Now I remember why most of my pants are black and my backpack purse of three years is also black.
Last night I decided to take a picture of the repair attempts I had made to the orange purse and tan pants. A tie-dyed piece of duct tape covers the blob on the purse; a trio of buttons masks the mark on the pants. Since I was wearing the pants, my brother offered to take the photograph. I handed him the camera but released my grasp before the transfer was complete. The camera landed lens-down on the floor. A foreboding message appeared on the screen, “Lens Error.” The five-month old camera, a gift from my husband last Christmas, is now nonfunctional and awaiting repairs way beyond my skill level.
My response to the purse, pants, and camera debacle is self-disdain. It’s as if I stand outside of my self and sneer at the klutzy person who wrecks her stuff with regularity. “What an idiot. How can you be so stupid…?” It’s harsh language to use on another human being, even if the other human being happens to be myself. What makes me think it’s okay to “pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults….” “That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging” says The Message version of Matthew 7:1. “Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.”
I avoid all kinds of physical behaviors that might kill me: reckless driving, smoking, eating lots of fatty foods, drugging….But when I criticize myself with contempt, I practice life-threatening psychic behaviors. Harsh words kill the spirit and make me forget I am a beloved child of God.
Repairing my purse, pants, and my camera are all good things. But repairing my critical spirit requires more than an application of duct tape and buttons. This is a job for daily prayer and vigilance, one I can’t do without God’s help.
Sybil MacBeth ©2010