Censoring Censoriousness

I’ve got a new word: censoriousness. OK. Maybe it’s not new, but it isn’t a term I hear every day. I’m fairly certain I’ve never employed the word in conversation—until now, that is.

Alistair Begg has been using it—a lot. Alistair is an American from Scotland. He is the pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, OH.

His teaching ministry is aptly called Truth for Life, and his talks are broadcast across the country. I access them using a handy app on my phone.

I’d like to say I started tuning in to Begg because Gary recommended it. But advice from one’s husband often ricochets around the room and out the window in the same way a parent’s counsel bounces off a teenager.

Gary gets credit for the introduction. Then—full disclosure—I tuned in the first few times because I loved hearing Begg’s Scottish brogue. It’s delightful, really.

Early on, though, I said to myself, “Self, this guy is worth the listen.”

Alistair Begg’s recent 20-minute broadcasts have been focused on censoriousness, which means, according to Webster, hypercritical and faultfinding. He has been talking about how easily we find fault in others while remaining blind to our own shortcomings.

Alastair is forcing me to take a good look at my true self. Nobody really wants to take a good look at his or her own true self. It’s NF—No Fun.

Martin Luther King, Jr. used to talk about the same kind of thing. We all recognize the distinguished civil rights leader for his exceptional capacity to love in the midst of hate, for his capacity to forgive in the face of violence.

What we often forget is that the same Martin Luther King, Jr. we celebrate each January was also an American Baptist minister. His platform was Biblically rooted, and his message remains relevant today.

King said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase” and “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

The things the heralded leader said were ideas we would do well to embrace.

He said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

King would have agreed that the censoriousness Alistair Begg spoke about is what breeds hate and creates enemies. I’d like to think—and hope—that I’ve never been described as a censorious person.

I don’t want to be aligned with Begg’s definition of a hypocrite: “…a walking contradiction—partly truth and partly fiction.”

The thing is, hypocrisy will eventually reveal itself even in the shrewdest hypocrites. Wally knew that Eddie Haskell (“That’s a lovely dress you’re wearing, Mrs. Cleaver”) was superficial and shifty.

The Eddie Haskells of the world often grow into major manipulators like Downton Abbey’sThomas Barrow and Miss O’Brien.

All the above are fictional individuals. Their character flaws are exaggerated.

In real life, every human being is flawed. But Martin Luther King, Jr. believed, as does Alistair Begg, that we can improve ourselves if we so desire.

Begg suggested an exercise to eradicate censoriousness. He said we should “…be as critical of ourselves as we always are with other people and be as generous to others as we are with ourselves.”

Talk about a mental workout. Yet, if every person truly reversed his or her focus in that way, the hate King addressed would all but evaporate.

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend,” said King.

It’s safe to say that MLK Jr. embraced the 11thCommandment, the one Jesus added in John 13:34: “…Love one another….”

Easy to say it; time to work on it.



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