Faith Talk: He who cast the first stone

Faith Talk: He who cast the first stone

It's been rather amusing observing the verbal joust between John Howard and his former Treasurer via the nation's press, with Howard's political memoir, Lazarus Rising, the talk of the town. Aussies are famous for sledging – on and off the field –  so let's take a moment to reflect on one of my favourite kick-butt Jesus moments in the Bible, which is quite pertinent as far as civility is concerned.

As the story goes, the Pharisees and scribes bring a woman before Jesus who has committed (and been caught in the act of) adultery and is to be stoned for her crime. When confronted by these men of standing, he bends down to the ground, draws a line in the sand, and says, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."

The consciences of the men got the better of each of them and one by one they walked away from Jesus and the woman, their heads hanging in shame. Guilty as charged. When they had all gone, he said to her, "Woman, where are your accusers? Has no man condemned you?" She said, "No man, Lord." And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." (John 8:1-11)

To my mind, there are a few lessons* we can take from Jesus' teaching here but for the purposes of this post, there are two: the idea that no matter our rank in life, we are all guilty of sin in its various guises; and that being quick to judge and/or point the finger at others is the fastest way to bring disrepute on ourselves. Hypocrisy stinks.

Belittling others and bignoting ourselves is a common trap in a culture that requires us to stand out from the pack and strive for success. Being the bigger man (even when you are physically the smaller man) takes a dose of humility often in conflict with a culture of meritocracy commensurate with financial gain.

To sit back and watch as others claim our ideas as their own, be promoted to positions of prestige as we languish at the lower rungs on the corporate ladder or achieve what we hoped was within our own grasp is frustrating and often infuriating.  

But what often gets lost in the wake of this (often futile) climb towards self-fulfillment or aggrandisement are a peaceful conscience and a reputation for being a person of integrity. 

I'm no saint: I'm often tempted to refute, have a go or counter someone else's opinion; to take offense, get uptight or anxious and retaliate. But dibber-dobbering and whingeing are not particularly becoming traits. I've always felt petty and silly in the process when I've succumbed, and regretted these ramblings on reflection.

In some circumstances, something must be said: a gross injustice, crime or slight against a loved one might be cause for a defense of some sort (I encountered a woman recently who is still deeply resentful of a journalist who tainted her son's professional reputation).

Constructive criticism is also often warranted, in the right place and at the right time, if we could do with cleaning up our act in some area of our lives. But defending your own reputation – or your professional choices – takes serious consideration.

What is to be gained? Is this something that should be confined to the pages of a diary under lock and key, a therapist or a good friend? Or should it be aired for all and sundry to read?

Understanding that not everyone will like us is a valuable primary school lesson; but learning to tolerate, and even love others, in spite of their opinions of you takes a whole lot of humility. Additionally, acknowledging that behind every closed door is a darkness requires maturity. And saying, "You were right, I was wrong; I'm sorry," takes guts.

Howard and Costello can have their public jousting match, and we will be privy to the odd sledging on the cricket pitch this season, but nothing makes a man look smaller than pettiness, particularly when he/she is far from perfect themselves.

"A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult." (Proverbs 12:16)
"Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned." (Luke 6:37)

* The idea that the woman, and not her adulterating partner, were brought before him is another post under 'Feminism'!

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel


Niki M said...

I agree. Belittling others to promote yourself, makes you look arrogant and petty.