As a phone conversation with my sister was winding down, she offered stinging final words after debriefing over some family drama: “Well, we all know you’re the spiritual one in the family.” I sighed an internal ugh, knowing that she really meant to say self-righteous one. In an attempt to defend what I thought she was implying, I launched into a stream of apologetic clarifications.
In the end, it felt like an exercise in futility. I knew the reputation I had forged years earlier in much less sanctified times had never been forgotten. The truth is that I had deservedly earned the title. As a young, arrogant, spiritually immature and self-assured believer, I had driven my nose up at my families’ failures and displayed enough told-you-so-disappointment that I’m surprised they didn’t excommunicate me altogether. It wasn’t until I had experienced quite a few of my own failures that God thankfully shut down my pharisaical rantings for good.
Looking back on those early days, I still feel ashamed at the ways I disgraced the name of Christ and the reputation of believers. Unfortunately, grudges are easier to hold than forgiveness is to hand out. Reputations are complex mechanisms to dismantle. Although we have limitless opportunities to show kindness to others, it takes only one poisonous slip of the tongue or outburst of anger to completely destroy our credibility and strip us of relational capital.