Many of us have had interactions which, in hindsight, we realize we could have handled better. Sometimes we may even walk away from people we once loved – and who once loved us – because of a character nuisance known as self-justification.
Definitions of “justification” include vindication or defense. But to vindicate or to defend oneself doesn’t necessarily bring true healing. I recently realized that my own self-justification relating to something I’d done decades earlier was keeping me from moving forward.
My behavior was something I am not proud of. It altered my relationship with someone I loved very much. While I apologized and was forgiven, at the time I hadn’t understood the depth of what is needed in a true apology.
In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, wrote: “Sorrow for wrong-doing is but one step towards reform and the very easiest step. The next and great step required by wisdom is the test of our sincerity, – namely, reformation” (p. 5).
Well, that helped me realize recently that I was lacking in the humility to let go of the notion that my actions toward this loved one had been justified because of another’s behavior. God could never give permission for love to be taken away or carelessly abused.
In fact, what we learn of love, we learn of God. As the Bible points out, “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8). And it is striking that so many who were healed by Christ Jesus were ready to stop defending, justifying, or rationalizing the problem or past behavior, and were truly hungry for the fresh start the Savior gave them.
God’s devotion to our well-being never wavers. Our role is to reflect the goodness that God bestows on us. Mercy is found not only through divine justice, but also through selflessness and humility.
Self-justification slows progress. It keeps us from showing lasting mercy toward ourselves or others. Where God is – and God is everywhere – the full expression of divine Love is. This Love is not personal. God, the totality of Love itself, holds all life as spiritual, precious, and perfect. The depth of honesty is the full expression of divine Truth. There is never a moment where a separate cause or influence exists that can diminish the spiritual qualities of integrity and love. As God is Love and we are His expression, we are designed to radiate love through every pore. The fullness of life, joy, purity, intelligence, prosperity, mercy, and grace is always present because God is always present.
Humbly recognizing these spiritual facts is where true healing begins to happen. Even the most entrenched self-justification gives way to the light of pure Love that redeems, reforms, and heals.
As I embraced these truths, this lesson came to fruition for me. Perhaps after 30 years the self-justification may have seemed unimportant, and the easier thing may have seemed to just let it slide. But I now saw that there was no justification or defense for my unloving actions. What I’d done was wrong.
With self-justification no longer holding me back, I sat down with this individual and shared what I had learned. Our relationship is richer for that! And this healing also allowed me to let go of any residual resentment for what I’d experienced that had served as the basis for justifying my wrongdoing.
Mrs. Eddy wrote in her book “Retrospection and Introspection”: “Mere historic incidents and personal events are frivolous and of no moment, unless they illustrate the ethics of Truth. To this end, but only to this end, such narrations may be admissible and advisable; but if spiritual conclusions are separated from their premises, the nexus is lost, and the argument, with its rightful conclusions, becomes correspondingly obscure. The human history needs to be revised, and the material record expunged” (pp. 21-22). Healing can happen for any of us when we have the humility to let go of the excuse to blame others for our own missteps. Then the cobwebs of resentment and self-justification are wiped away, and we are changed for the better.