would you raise your hand?

I create weekly bulletins for the Celebrate Recovery meeting at our church. Last week the topic was “admit.” So in looking for material to include on the front cover of the bulletin I did what any self-respecting 20-something would do; I googled the word “admit”. In the results was this little gem of a story:

     A friend to DL Moody present at a Bible conference related this incident:
“We were perhaps a hundred men…Mr. Moody was leading the conversation…Out came the plump question:
     ‘Brethren, how many of you have so grown in grace that you can bear to have your faults told?’
     Many hands went up. Quick as a flash, but not sharply or insultingly, Moody turned to a young Episcopal minister in front of him and said:
     ‘Brother, you have spoken thirteen times in three days here, and perhaps shut out twelve other good men from speaking.’
     It was true. The young man had been presuming and officious. Mr. Moody fitted him fairly. He had held up his hand as one willing to be chided for fault, but he could not bear it. He owned no fault or sorrow, but stoutly defended himself—or tried to—only making his case really the worse. Then a real old Yankee vinegar-face on the outer rim of the circle turned loose and sharply berated Mood for his bluntness. The good man blushed, but listened until the abuse was over; then, suggestively covering his face, he spoke through his fingers:
     ‘Brethren, I admit all the fault my friend charges on me; but, brethren, I did not hold up my hand!’

I like this story, and I hate it. I like it because it’s witty and fun. I hate it because I could very easily be the young minister. As a burgeoning young counselor, I’d like to claim that I am self-aware, humble, and genuine enough to openly admit my faults. I’m not. I’m better than I used to be, but certainly not as good as I could be.

For example, I recently made a mistake with a client I was seeing. I terminated our sessions prematurely, which I realized only after talking it over with my supervisor. Did I go and share this failure with my roommate, friends, or family? No, I tend to share with them only the things I am doing well, the things that make me look good. Even as I write this, I’m debating in my head if I should delete this paragraph, because it reveals the fact that I am not perfect, and I make mistakes.

At the end of the day, though, it’s not my faults that matter, but how I handle and what I learn from them. Knowing that God has grace for me, I constantly struggle to extend that grace to myself. As a perfectionist, this is hard work! But I know if I am not vulnerable or honest about my faults, I only perpetuate a cycle in Christian communities that tells everyone that they should be perfect and have their act together, rather than modeling that I struggle, that I’m imperfect, and that God loves me anyway. Hiding my imperfections also robs others of being able to care for me and leaves me feeling more isolated and alone than is necessary.

So I probably still wouldn’t put my hand up to have my faults told, but I hope I’m moving in the right direction…


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