When it comes to understanding our own hearts, we are in deep water. It’s easy to assume we can read other people’s hearts and motives, and we may even think we have a grip on our own, but the truth is, man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. We attribute the best of motives to our own actions, but seldom give others the benefit of a doubt.
For example, if we have spoken unkindly to someone, we can spend the next several hours (days, months, years) telling ourselves a story over and over about how we really said (or did) the right thing. We tell ourselves that they really deserved it, that we had pure motives, that it was right, right, right. But the problem is, if it was really right, we would have forgotten all about it long ago. If we had told the truth, we would not be patting ourselves on the back all day about it. If we lied, we keep repeating the whole scenario over in our minds, justifying our behavior, excusing the lie, and sooner or later we may even convince ourselves of it.
But God sees the heart and even when we tell Him the story over and over with our little spin on it, He is never won over to our perspective.Â The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, and we ought not argue with Him. When the Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts with something like, “That was unkind,” the proper response is, “Right. I’ll take care of it right away.” Then that chapter can be closed appropriately. The problem is when we answer instead with something like, “But she needed to hear that. I was only exercising my spiritual gift of rebuke. It was good that I said that. It was not unkind. It was really the loving thing to do.” And as we retell the story to ourselves, we may embellish it freely, bestowing evil motives on the other person and attributing sacrificial motives to ourselves.
As the years roll by and these things are not attended to, it’s no wonder our hearts get hard, and the unkindness accumulates until it’s a big gunky mess. Far better to humble ourselves day by day than be humbled by the Living God who sees all.