Saturday, February 20, 2010

Contriteness Doesn't Often Get a Fair Hearing

Contriteness is a rather personal feeling (and behavior), isn't it?

Contriteness is the recognition of a personal error, a misstep, a mistake . . . of sin. More than mere acknowledgement, though, it is sorrow expressed for committing the action that was out of bounds and hurtful and offensive to others. Contriteness is complete when that sorrow motivates change . . . corrective action.

Contriteness is rather personal, however. Genuine sorrow, though deeply felt, cannot always be adequately expressed to others or be received by them enthusiastically. There are always cynics and those quick to dismiss the contrite of heart as insincere, opportunists, and calculating.

Consider Tiger Woods. His predicament is well known and the details need no re-airing here. Is he contrite? Were his words of apology sincere, today? Is the shame he spoke of real? Is he committed to changed behavior? Or, was he merely seeking to defuse the situation? . . . finesse his way out of a tight spot? . . . somehow manage to rebuild his shattered image?

Many have been quick to dismiss Woods entirely and give him no room for penance. Many are quick to castigate him as an incorrigible liar and as someone beyond rehabilitation. Will Tiger Woods ever be able to recapture the esteem he once enjoyed? Can the pieces ever be put back together, again? What will it take to win over the hearts and minds of the general populace? And, more, will he win over the heart of the women he so hurt?

I suppose the point I'm getting to is this . . . is the measure of one's contriteness the product of public opinion? Is the genuineness of one's sorrow left to the perspective of others to determine? For the sake of us all, I certainly hope not. Public opinion is often uninformed and almost always emotional, not rational . . . selfish, not out of real concern for the other. The perspective of others cannot easily see within the confines of your heart . . . or, of mine . . . or, of Tiger Woods!

Again, I don't know if Tiger Woods is genuine in his sorrow over the sins he has committed against his wife and family, or not. And, that lack of knowledge is my point: I don't know one way or another! I cannot know. I am not the reader of man's souls. I am not God!

Of course, the application of this point goes much farther afield than Tiger Woods. It is relevant to everyday living and germain to all the relationships in which we find ourselves.

Remember, Jesus taught, "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" (Luke 6.37-38).

When David cried out in Psalm 51, "Create in me a clean heart, O God" (v. 10), I am certain the family of Uriah scoffed! But, God heard him! And, he hears and sees the contriteness of our hearts, as well! Even if so many others refuse to hear and see themselves.

Fortunately, for you and me, contriteness is not reliant upon public opinion, it is a matter between myself/yourself and God. And, let us show that deference to those who sin against us!

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