No doubt we have all used the actions of others as a standard for judging ourselves. We begin as children, blurting out the shortcomings of our siblings to garner mom and dad’s favor, and we evolve into more subtle adults, silently gauging other’s actions when our own self-worth needs a boost.
But God’s view is not limited to behavior. Instead, He can focus like a laser beam right into our souls. In other words, He knows what we are thinking regardless of what we are saying or doing!
Does that mean we should ensure our outer actions always match our inner motives? Of course not! We are human; our internal thoughts are not always pure and altruistic. For example, just because we feel resentful doesn't mean we should act resentful. It’s often a good idea to act big-hearted and good-natured even when we don’t feel big-hearted and good-natured.
But it’s not wise to assume God is pleased as long as our actions look good. God knows we aren’t perfect, but He wants us to face our internal flaws and work on overcoming them. He wants to see progress in our souls, and there can be no progress without an honest examination of our inner thoughts and a subsequent effort to do better.
Richard Rohr, prolific writer, speaker, and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation, says that although it is uncomfortable to face our shortcomings, there are risks if we ignore them:
We all have one or more detrimental tendencies, which could include an inclination to be impatient, quick to anger, defensive, controlling, unforgiving, jealous – you get the idea. Eliminating these seemingly inherent characteristics is a tall order, but frequent and sincere acknowledgment, even if just to ourselves, will go a long way toward diffusing them. And diffusion is definitely progress.