Do You See Only Others’ Weaknesses?
A CHRISTIAN minister in his eighties once said: “I make it a rule to allow my friends at least two shortcomings.” He wisely recognized that we all have weaknesses, and so did not expect his friends to be perfect. He did not make the mistake of letting the weaknesses of others blind him to their good points.
Yet how prone imperfect human nature is to do just that, to see only the weaknesses of others or let their weaknesses eclipse their strong points. It calls to mind the time when a public speaker put an ink spot on a sheet of white paper, held it up and asked his audience what they saw. All they saw was the ink spot, not the white sheet of paper.
Have you ever severely judged a “bossy” woman, one who seemed to be always wanting to advise or direct her husband? The trait is one that a Christian should seek to overcome. But if that weakness is all that you saw, it could well be that you were blind to her many fine points One such woman, though not always discreet in the way she expressed her desires, was really loyal, a hard worker, unselfish, and efficient in managing the affairs of her household. And, interestingly, her apparent bossiness did not seem to irritate her husband nearly as much as it did others. They saw only her weakness; but her husband knew and appreciated the fact that she had fine qualities too.
Letting the shortcomings of others overshadow their strong points is something that not a few do in regard to the Bible character David, ancient king of Israel. Many associate his name only with his adulterous affair with Bath-sheba, the wife of Uriah, a man in the army of Israel. (2 Sam. 11:1-27; 1 Chron. 11:26, 41) As the Jewish Encyclopedia states: “David’s character has often been criticized unfavorably,” but then it continues and says, “only blind prejudice will deny that his nature, in its essence, was noble.”—Vol. 4, p. 458.
Yes, David had many fine qualities, and his record is one that is predominantly good. What faith David manifested in going forth and slaying the giant Goliath, who taunted Jehovah and all the armies of Israel! (1 Sam. 17:4-54) What magnanimity David showed when he twice spared the life of King Saul, who was determined to destroy him! (1 Sam. 24:4-22; 26:1-25) What appreciation he had for Jehovah’s worship in wanting to build a suitable temple for Jehovah, and, when denied that privilege, he, nevertheless, contributed an enormous sum and encouraged others to make great contributions for its building! (1 Chron. 28:1–29:19) And what great love and appreciation of Jehovah’s goodness are evinced in the more than seventy-five psalms that he wrote!
In regard to David’s sin with Bath-sheba, let us note that as an outstanding musician he most likely was an emotional man. And as a poet he waxed eloquent over the wonders and beauties of creation. So it was only natural that he was also excited by feminine beauty. Like all other descendants of Adam, David was conceived in sin. (Ps. 51:5) Once he stumbled and committed the first sin, he easily fell into others in a futile effort to escape the effects of his first sin. When Uriah’s wife told him she was pregnant, David tried to maneuver matters so that it would be covered up. But when that failed he feared what would befall her when charged by her husband with adultery. (Prov. 6:32-35) When reproved, however, he sincerely repented, and he never committed adultery again. David suffered severely for his sin, even as God said he would, yet Jehovah did not cast him off.—2 Sam. 12:1-12.
Coming down to the present time, one has only to look around for modern examples. There is the office worker who is extremely sensitive to criticism, who is prone to express himself in a loud tone of voice and who easily gets excited. He certainly gets on your nerves. Then there is the person who seems to display a lofty attitude, and this just goes against your grain. Instead of justifying these traits, both individuals need to work hard to improve. Nevertheless, each one of these persons has his or her strong points. They may well be conscientious workers. If you really get acquainted with them or see them under other circumstances you may find them to be entirely different persons from what you imagined.
Especially in the family circle is there need to be on guard lest husbands and wives, parents and children let the others’ weaknesses cause them to overlook their good and strong points. It will help if we note that often a weakness is merely a strong point overdone or one that has got out of hand, even as we may note in the case of the apostle Peter. What zeal and faith he showed! How greatly he was used by God! Yet his warm, ardent, emotional nature caused him at times to make mistakes that others, less intense and ardent, did not commit. But how wrong it would be to let his mistakes blind us to his good points!
A great help in appreciating the good qualities that others have is empathy or fellow feeling. Remember that others’ weaknesses may be due to poor health, to their upbringing or to other circumstances with which you may not be acquainted.
A negative attitude would harm both you and the other person. It would make for division instead of unity. Thereby you would close the door to friendship and toward being mutually helpful.
Remember the “golden rule.” You also have weaknesses. You do not want others to be blind to your good points, do you? So try to see the good points and commendable qualities in others. They may not be as obvious at first as their weaknesses, but when you find them, most likely they will be far more pleasing to look at.—Luke 6:31.