I was completely unprepared for my 9th grade class to so roundly criticize Willy Loman from Arthur Miller‘s Death of a Salesman. He’s meant to represent the average American male in futile pursuit of the hoax called the American Dream.
The students admitted no merit to the man. He was unfaithful, a failed businessman, a liar, prideful, insane, a sufferer of delusions of grandeur. He deserved no sympathy in his stupid and tragic end. Never mind that he was hard-working, sacrificial, concerned about his family, the class ganged up on me when I spoke of his redeeming qualities!
When I was a pastor, I was neither as good nor as bad as people said. Some praised me excessively; others criticized me too much. The truth was and is that I am a mixture of both good and bad, saint and sinner, hypocrite and sincere, neither black nor white — just gray — like the rest of humanity.
The saddest thing is NOT perfectionism, puritanism, or Phariseeism. The depressing thing is that hyper-critics eventually wind up in their own crosshairs. Eventually you stub your own toe, and then Satan echoes back to you every harsh word you uttered over others’ failures. When this happens, you fall away from Christ: since there was no grace for others, there’s no grace for you.
Wisely, Jesus said: Judge not lest you be judged. If you have mercy on others, you’ll get mercy yourself. Prayer is NOT for exulting your superiority; it is a time of empathy and compassion for others.