Saturday, October 18, 2008

How seldom we weigh our neigbor in the same balance with ourselves. Thomas A. Kempis

“It is curious that our own offenses should seem so much less heinous that the offenses of others. I suppose the reason is that we know all the circumstances that have occasioned them and so manage to excuse in ourselves what we cannot excuse in others. We turn our attention away from our own defects, and when we are forced by untoward events to consider them, find it easy to condone them. For all I know we are right to do this; they are part of us and we must accept the good and bad in ourselves together.
But when we come to judge others, it is not by ourselves as we really are that we judge them, but by an image that we have formed of ourselves from which we have left out everything that offends our vanity or would discredit us in the eyes of the world. To take a trivial instance: how scornful we are when we catch someone telling a lie; but who can say that he has never told one, but a hundred?
There is not much to choose between men. They are all a hotchpotch of greatness and littleness, of virtue and vice, of nobility and baseness. Some have more strength of character, or more opportunity, and so in one direction or another give their instincts freer play, but potentially they are the same. For my part, I do not think I am any better or any worse than most people, but I know that if I set down every action in my life and every thought that has crossed my mind, the world would consider me a monster of depravity. The knowledge that these reveries are common to all men should inspire one with tolerance to oneself as well as to others. It is well also if they enable us to look upon our fellows, even the most eminent and respectable, with humor, and if they lead us to take ourselves not too seriously.” W. Somerset Maugham author of “Of Human Bondage”. Photo by rinaldo romani

I don't know anything about this author but I like this quote. It is unpretentious, has a level of humility I appreciate and so practical. I like that.


Mel said...

Hi Fred!

This post is excellent and ties in very nicely with something I've been pondering a lot lately. It immediately brought to mind this excerpt from "Mere Christianity."

I wasn't sure where to start and stop the excerpt, because the entire chapter is great, but I'll do my best. Sorry if it gets long...

"...this year, or this month, or more likely, this very day, we have failed to practise ourselves the kind of behavior we expect from other people. There may be all sorts of excuses for us. That time you were so unfair to the children was when you were very tired. That slightly shady business about the money--the one you have almost forgotten--came when you were very hard up. And what you promised to do for old So-and-so and have never done--well, you never would have promised if you had known how frightfully busy you were going to be. And as for your behavior to your wife (or husband) or sister (or brother) if I knew how irritating they could be, I would not wonder at it--and who the dickens am I, anyway? I am just the same. That is to say I do not succeed in keeping the Law of Nature [inborn moral law that all people are born with] very well, and the moment anyone tells me I am not keeping it, there starts up in my mind a string of excuses as long as your arm. The question at the moment is not whether they are good excuses. The point is that they are one more proof of how deeply, whether we like it or not, we believe in the Law of Nature. If we do not believe in decent behavior, why should we be so anxious to make excuses for not having behaved decently? The truth is, we believe in decency so much--we feel the Rule of Law pressing on us so--that we cannot bear to face the fact that we are breaking it, and consequently we try to shift the responsibility."

Oh, man, I could go on. But basically he's showing by this illustration that all people expect certain behavior from other people (fairness, decency, honesty) but are very good at not doing it themselves and then excusing it away. He's illustrating to non-believers the fact that we all are sinners in need of a Savior, even if we've never heard of the Bible or God's law.

There's another message I recently read that ties beautifully into this concept, but this comment is already so long, I'll forego it. Anyway, thanks for posting this, Fred! :) Many blessings to you, my friend!

In Christ,


FCB said...

Hi Mel,
Great comments! Tis so true, and what makes it more beastly, is I can be kinder to a perfect stranger and treat them more pleasantly than I might treat my own wife or family member????
What is up with that. Shouldn't, if we had to choose, we treat the stranger with all of our peevishness and be pleasant to those we love? I guess the test is when people demand things from us, then we find out who we really are. I'm afraid at 61 I'm still an infant in the basics.
But we press on- one line at a time.
Bless you Mel,