Monday, July 10, 2006

Introspection: Internal Nit-Picking

“… I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself…” (1Cor. 4:3b-4a)

According to the Greek mathematician, Euclid of Alexandria (325-265 B.C.), the whole of anything is only equal to the sum of its parts. Whatever this may say about mathematics in general, and geometry in particular, the sum of Me is not 65% oxygen, 18% carbon, 10% hydrogen, and 7% other (other what?). As a matter of fact, the sum of Me is far greater than all the many parts of me—physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, etc.—could ever add up to; and trying to examine myself, piece by piece, will never reveal who I really am. This brings me to my particular thesis today: The inclination to introspection is merely a morbid exercise in internal nit-picking.

By nit-picking I mean finding flaws and inconsistencies without offering any helpful suggestions to remedy the situation. And that is how most, if not all, of our self-analysis is conducted. We pick some sin or failing from our past and carefully lift the scab (left over from the last time), supposedly, to try to find the source of the original infection; when all the time, leaving the thing alone would speed healing, which is what we are after, right? Or is it? Maybe introspection is a substitute for moving ahead. Examining my motives, appearance, and performance, on a day to day basis, leaves little time for progress in the Christian life. This is no doubt why Paul not only refused to focus on other’s judgment of him, but even refrained from indulging in it himself. He was wise enough to know that he would get it wrong anyway (“I know nothing by myself”). He knew it for what it was—a weight that he must lay aside in order to run the race for God (Heb.12:1).

Self-analysis has its place, of course, especially prior to partaking of the Lord’s Table (1 Cor.11); but this involves knowable sins that invite chastisement. Oddly enough, however, it is not usually these that bother the reflective nit-picker nearly as much as unknowable and incurable symptoms. These folks would rather scrutinize their temperaments than submit to the Testaments (the Old and New, that is)! Why we did wrong is not nearly as important and not doing it again. It may be nice to know the former, but it doesn’t always mean the latter will follow.

In the final analysis (much better than self-analysis), we should be wielding a telescope, not a stethoscope. “Looking unto Jesus,” as the writer of Hebrews says (12:2), and leaving all the introspection to the Blessed Holy Spirit. He is no nit-picker; He never points out a flaw or failure without also providing a remedy.

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