“For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.” (James 1:23-24)
Psychologists have decided that a baby becomes aware that he or she is a person distinct from others at about the age of fifteen to eighteen months. They have determined this is not by asking the child, obviously, but by observing his or her behavior. We have all seen children six months and older look at themselves in a mirror and immediately reach out to touch the mirror. This is because they assume they are looking at another child. The fact that what they are seeing is merely an image of the body they inhabit doesn’t occur to them.
One way they ascertain when a little one has passed this stage is by dabbing rouge or lipstick on his or her nose, and then allowing him or her to look in the mirror. The child that touches his or her own nose, as if to say, “Hey, there’s a spot on me!” has come to the realization that he or she is a distinct individual. They may not understand all the implications of this (for instance, what to do about the spot); but the fact that they have recognized the spot to be their own and not the person in the mirror, is a giant step in developmental maturity. The same behavioral phenomenon is true in the Spiritual life. It is only natural, James says, for human beings to forget just how they look at any given time. That’s why we look at ourselves again after putting on an outfit we may have worn just recentlly, even though it only makes sense we’ll look the same way we did the last time! The truth is, we have forgotten just how we did look.
But what if we looked in the mirror, didn’t like what we saw, and promptly declared, “That’s not me, I don’t look that way; that’s someone else.” Everyone would assume we were either mentally immature or emotionally insecure…or both. Actually, though, that is just what we often do when we look into the mirror of God’s Word and fail to recognize ourselves. We hear or read the Word of God and assume the principles, laws, and precepts are for someone else. That sin we would condemn in others—whether it be an action or an attitude—is often never seen in ourselves, especially sins of the heart (the most insidious). The person in the mirror is somebody else.
I have come to the conclusion that one of the most important ingredients in the life of a Christian is personal and intellectual honesty. Especially the ability to look at one’s self and say, “Yup, that’s me all right!” I don’t know about you, but I find myself reading about something or someone in the Bible and if not saying it audibly, at least saying to myself, “That’s a perfect picture of “So-and-So,” forgetting that the Bible is a mirror, not a magnifying glass.
This is sad, because as long as I see someone else in the mirror, and not myself, I’ll always be the one with the big red spot on my nose.