“Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.” – Lk. 18:9

The opening words of today’s Gospel sting a bit for me. This parable is one that I have come to realize I personally need to hear more often than others. While I don’t necessary “despise everyone else” or anyone in particular, I recognize now that I have generally been “convinced of my own righteousness.”

From the outside, I can appear to others to have a good degree of humility. But those who know me best can see that I struggle with falling into either conceited pride and defensiveness as one extreme, or a pit of unworthiness, shame, or self-doubt at times as another. This realization has been difficult to come to, having to accept that I am often more self-inflating than I would like to think. “Pride? I don’t have pride! No, that’s not something that I struggle with.” I have definitely been blind to the plank in my own eye while I nitpick about the specks and splinters in my neighbors (Mt 7:3-5).

But, more and more, time and others are holding up a mirror for me to see myself and my tendencies more clearly...and what may lie beneath them. My pattern of slipping into the extremes of pride and self-doubt reveal that I am less grounded in my identity as God’s beloved than I thought. I revert to pride as a defense mechanism – a way to try to protect myself from the pain of insecurity and the reality of imperfection.

This Lent, though, I have more compassion for the self-righteous Pharisee in the Gospel...and in myself. Through the work of grace in me over time, I can see my pride as a symptom of my brokenness and need for love and affirmation. I can admit more readily now and with more genuine humility that I too am a sinner in need of God’s healing love. Though it is not always easy or immediate, when I look in the mirror these days, I can see myself for all that I am because I do not look with my eyes alone. Together, with Jesus, I can look, cry, smile, and even laugh at my ways because he sees me and loves me in it all.   

What might I need to let myself, others, and God see in me this Lent? How might I need help seeing myself and others with the eyes of Jesus these days?

Marisa Moonilal