Light and dark like good and evil both exist inside us

A guy named Luke re-tells a story told first by someone he followed in order to make a point about comparison.  We all compare ourselves to others.  Whether we do so actively or passively, whether we are too pleased with ourselves or too hard on ourselves, we can’t help it.  Unless we are completely isolated from birth I think we will always measure ourselves against some one else or some thing else.  To do so is human nature.  In the story it was a person who many looked upon as religious who sets a low bar when it comes to looking down on others.

In the story he gives thanks that he’s not a bad person.  Most of us aren’t robbers or adulterers or even evildoers like he says and we’re certainly not the thug-scum that the other guy (a tax collector) was so it’s probably a prayer of thanks that our lot in life has been good that many of us could make.  But the apparently religious man takes it too far.  He lets pride into the mix.  His prayer is in essence “Look at me!  See how wonderful I am!  See how pious I am!  I am so thankful that I am so good!”  Even out of context and out of church any man on the street could spot his arrogance.  The tax collector is quite different though.

Unlike the religious man, his prayer lacks verbosity, it lacks comparison and it lacks any mention of good or bad deeds.  No, the tax collector doesn’t look left, he doesn’t look right and he doesn’t even look up because he knows where he stands.  He doesn’t say what he isn’t by comparison but what he is by declaration.  The tax collector, like the religious man, owns who he is but unlike the religious man he knows who he is.  His plea comes from a need to be recognized but not for all the wonderful things he does.  His need is the sincere need for forgiveness.  It’s something we all need.

We’re all a little like both of these people.  We need forgiveness for our religious guy moments (maybe our pride) and our tax collector-like actions (maybe being unfair or unkind).  We’ll all find ourselves comparing ourselves to others in a crowd at times and standing alone pleading for forgiveness at other times.  It’s the flawed nature of our humanity that both are contained inside us.  But it’s the gift of humility which has the power to lift us up and bring us out of our muck that we need to recognize.  It’s our humility that allows us to be known by another term: exalted.

We all could use a lift.  The key from the story is that we’re not supposed to push someone else down to bring ourselves up.  Sometimes I fall into that zero-sum type of thinking and I need to be reminded of this story.  If you know someone that needs this, please pass it along.

I write every week about life stuff and I hope what it means to be human in all its good and bad stuff.  If you want to read more, click here to go to my blog’s home page.  While you’re there you can subscribe for free or just do it by clicking this.  Either way subscribing means you will receive an email on Saturdays with links to the week’s posts, nothing more or less since I never sell or share emails.