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Comparing Your Sin and Mine

Three women friends
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The Sin of Disgust

Picture yourself walking into church. You notice another woman walking toward the door who doesn’t “belong” in church. Maybe you know some details about this particular woman or she’s a type of woman you’d have difficulty sitting next to.

Are you having trouble picturing that woman? Maybe you welcome everyone, assume the best, and always show kindness and grace. Then, consider this. How do you feel about the ones who don’t show kindness and grace? That church lady who rolls her eyes in disgust, unwilling to sit next to the “sinner.” If your reaction is, “That bigot! I would never treat people the way she does,” are you not also comparing down with disgust?

Here’s the problem. We Comparison Girls tend to minimize our own sin of looking down on sinful people. It’s one of those “respectable sins” that even the godliest women among us—the ones who lead Bible studies and make food for funerals and pray daily over their grandchildren—do on a regular basis. And we feel comfortable following their lead.

“I would never,” we say, sweeping a finger of disgust over someone’s sin. But in doing so, we fail to see our contempt as sin. Each eye-roll, horrified gasp, or look of disgust cast toward others is offensive to God, their Maker.

The Opposite of Love

In his book Christians in the Age of Outrage, Ed Stetzer argues that the opposite of love is not hate but disgust. Comparing down in self-righteous disgust makes love impossible. We involuntarily recoil, like the Pharisee from the tax collector. Or like Wendy from her friend.

Wendy was shocked when her dear friend confessed to getting Botox. How vain! Wendy thought. I’m glad I don’t do that. Everything I admire about her beauty is fake. But then Wendy began to worry that their friend group might be wondering why she didn’t get Botox. The thought made her self-conscious, so she secretly researched Botox pricing. Again, Wendy was shocked. She thought, Geesh, it must be nice to be able to afford that.

Over time, Wendy realized that her inward disgust was causing her to withdraw. She needed to humble herself and let her friend work out the matter of Botox and its affordability with God. It was only when Wendy stopped comparing down with disgust that her pure love for her friend returned.

Jesus wants us to love others the way he did. Not in a “love the sinner, hate the sin” sort of way but—as Stetzer puts it—in a “love the sinner, as I have been loved” way. God has only assigned me one person’s sin to deal with: my own. Everyone else I’m called to love.

The Disgust Factor Challenge

As a Comparison Girl, I confess that, like Wendy, I’ve grown far too comfortable with my own disgust. I’m disgusted with unfaithful spouses. I’m disgusted with dirty politicians. I’m disgusted with the woman in the express checkout who has more than twenty items. I would never, I think to myself. But how quickly my disgust turns me into a proud, bitter, critical, condescending woman—exactly the type I never wanted to become.

I’ve noticed that when I look down on someone in disgust, I’m usually doing so from a self-elevated position. So to help root out my inward disgust (which is probably also more outward than I realize), I recently invited some friends to join me for a “Disgust Factor Challenge.” For three weeks, we worked to expunge the disgust from our faces, words, and hearts. As my friends and I shared our progress, here are some situations that gave rise to our disgust:

• A coworker, once again, failed to do his job.

• A woman was sinfully dividing the church.

• A newly divorced friend was researching new ways to flirt.

• A family member in extreme debt booked a vacation.

• A friend shared a politically charged Facebook post.

Notice how our disgust was consistently triggered by a sin or bad habit that someone else needed to change. Yet as you know, disgust does not win friends or influence people. The moment I insert the “Disgust Factor,” I only spark disgust in the other person and forfeit my influence. On the other hand, when I drop the disgust, the other person is far more open to listen.

I noticed this play out recently when I gave my teenage son some cleaning instructions. It was his fifth snow day in a row, and his chores would both save me time and give him something productive to do. But he rolled his eyes in resistance, which triggered an avalanche of disgust from me. “You’ve had days to do whatever you want. Why can’t you just help? Do you really think that your video games are more important than my writing?” But then I remembered what I’m writing about.

I apologized to my son, then stepped back and repeated my message—this time minus the disgust. I did not contort my face. I did not point my finger. I did not raise my voice. I just said, “Honey, you’ve had a lot of snow days, and I have lots of work to do. Could you help me out by doing some cleaning?” The contrast in his response was remarkable. “Sure, Mom,” he said and plugged in the vacuum cleaner.

When we approach other sinners with eye-rolling, finger-pointing disgust, we activate their defenses and push them away. Disgust only adds to our me-focused isolation.

For Meditation: Romans 4:7–8 (NLT)

Oh, what joy for those

whose disobedience is forgiven,

whose sins are put out of sight.

Yes, what joy for those

whose record the Lord has cleared of sin.

 

When I measure my sin by looking sideways with disgust, I only feed my self-righteous pride. Instead, I should look up. God, be merciful to me—the sinner. Thank you that Jesus made a way for my sin to be cleared.

 

Excerpted from Comparison Girl ©2020 by Shannon Popkin, published by Kregel Publications.

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