What Other People Think
They do all their deeds to be seen by others. Matthew 23:5
For years, while living with the dark secret of my addiction, I needed to keep it that way – a secret. I wanted others to know only my good deeds. There were good deeds of course. I worked in the emergency room, so I had some things to brag about. Deep down though, I knew the truth and I spent an inordinate of time worrying about others finding out. It was miserable, but it wasn’t miserable enough to make me change. I just did my best to make sure others saw only my best side.
In the disaster then, when my name was in the paper and my destructive behavior was dragged into the light, I was a wreck. My good image evaporated, and I spent a great deal of time in the house, avoiding people. I snuck in and out of church and went to the grocery store only at odd hours. Everyone knew the worst thing about me, and it hurt.
In today’s passage, Jesus addressed this unhealthy preoccupation with what others think. He chastised the Pharisees who did good deeds, not for God, but just because they wanted others to think they were good people. They tried to use God, faking faith, while still pointing at and living for themselves. The good things they did, weren’t actually good, because they were born out of pride. Look at me and how wonderful I am! They ignored their failures and weren’t interested in actually living for God. They lived only for the praise of those around them.
I can identify. In both situations, before and after the discovery of my addiction, I wasn’t really interested in doing what was right in the eyes of God. I just wanted to maintain a certain image in the eyes of the world. The only way to fix my situation of course, was to actually change, finding sobriety. To do so, I’ve had to work on abandoning my preoccupation with what others think. Living for an image will never lead to authentic faith and recovery.
It’s not that we’re meant to turn our backs on our neighbors. We’re just not meant to live according to what they think. We must choose honesty, not presenting a facade to fool others into thinking we’re something we’re not. We must live for what’s right in the eyes of God, not public opinion.