I’m prone to be an over-thinker. Surprise! I know, I know … just call me Captain Obvious. Well, I’m also inclined to over-think my over-thinking, and that often produces realizations that I then have to confront in myself.
In the past few weeks I’ve found myself in this mode of looking at me from the outside. It’s somewhat of a personal assessment of looking at patterns in my life and actions which not only seem to define me but have brought me to where I am today. Yikes, this topic is already feeling a bit heavy for a Monday morning.
One thing that stands out today is my ability and tendency to be categorical in my thinking, striving always to eliminate ambiguity – leaving no question about what is right and what is wrong. Raising three boys tends to enable that a bit, too. My boys are exploring and testing what is right and what is wrong. My wife and I are working to develop their understanding of right and wrong. But, that also means we have to live that out and model that, and that’s a tough one in and of itself.
I find it a bit interesting how as I get older the blacks are blacker and the whites are whiter, and there are less and less opportunities for gray. My convictions get stronger, my thinking more rigid and my patience shorter for differences in right and wrong.
Does that mean I’m intolerant? Yes, I confess. I’m intolerant … to things I hold to be right or wrong. I don’t tolerate stealing. I’m no fun. I don’t tolerate disrespectful language. I’m so uncool. I don’t tolerate an hourly employee texting friends and checking in on Facebook during company time. I guess that officially makes me old fashioned.
Does that mean I lack empathy? Yes, when circumstances are such that a viable option is available. I’m going to have a hard time being empathetic to someone who is asking for a hand-out when they are more than capable of getting up and making a living themselves. I’m so cold hearted. I lack empathy for the person talking about how much they need to get done and don’t have time for this or that but are up to date on all the latest sitcoms and celebrity love triangles. I’m so mean. I have no empathy for Ken and Barbie talking about money woes when they live in a mansion-sized house with a pool and have their kids in private schools. Uh, oh … I may have crossed the line on that one.
Oh, but what about you Mr. Critical? What gives you the right to be so harsh and judgmental? Actually, nothing. I’ve got nothing. I’m much worse off. You see, I’m the guy with double standards. I’m the one who is so hard lined that I’ll stop at a stop sign in the middle of nowhere … but, I’m also the one who will go through the drive thru at the bank with five transactions when the sign clearly says “four transaction limit.” I’m the one that will over-tip the waiter if I camp out longer than it takes to eat my meal … but, I’ll ”flow with traffic” at 76 miles per hour in a 70 MPH zone. I’m editing my really bad transgressions to keep me from looking too bad. Seriously, I could spend days on other contrasting scenarios, but I think you get the point.
What’s my justification? What gives me the power to decide what is right and what is wrong? I find myself saying “oh, this won’t matter” or “that’s a dumb rule”. Mr. Critical thinks he knows what is best. We’ll, the fact of the matter is that he does know what’s best … for him. But, to think that he knows what’s best for everyone is outright arrogance. Oooooo-Eeeeee, I stink! (Reminds me a bit of what’s going on in Washington DC, but I don’t really want to go there right now.)
What’s worse is I’m the guy handing out advice for what YOU should be doing to take care of your mess instead of me looking at MY own messes and taking care of them. I’ve got more mess than I know what to do with. But it’s sooo much easier to look at everyone else’s mess and fix it. It’s like a friend told me, I’ve got a knack for “over simplifying someone else’s problems and over complicating my own.”
So, what does Mr. Critical need to do about his alter ego Mr. Hypocritical? That’s a tough one. I’ve actually been fighting him quite a bit lately and what I’m finding is that to win, Mr. Critical is becoming more and more categorical. Yes, more black and white … taking my five transactions into the bank rather than the drive thru and respecting speed limits (thanks to the help of my three boys who often ask “are you driving the speed limit?”), changing my eating habits and using kind words with my wife. The list goes on and on.
Ultimately, my desire is to do the right thing. I want to lead by example. I want my actions to reflect my heart … and my heart constantly needs work. From there I hope my actions will show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control … not all that Mr. Hypocritical yuckiness.
– My name is Kyle Dreier, and I am Mr. Critical.
ps. Somehow I find time to enjoy a sitcom now and then.