It takes biblical wisdom and discernment to be able to sift through the good and the bad that we experienced as children. Anyone can overreact to their parents’ deficiencies. The very theology we profess to believe teaches that “we all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2). James specifically has in mind the way in which we use our tongues to say hurtful things, to speak ill of those made in the image of God (James 3:9), and to tear down rather than build up. Like Isaiah, we need the Lord to touch our lips with the coals of the altar—the blood of Christ (Isaiah 6:6—7). However, we can just as easily apply what James says about the tongue to what we do with our eyes, ears, and hands. We are a frail and sinful people, who, have an “irreconcilable war” (WCF 13.2) raging within. Each of us ought to easily be able to own the words of the Apostle:
I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me…Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin (Romans 7:18—25).
The reality of indwelling sin means that we must be in the habit of going back to God with a broken spirit, remembering this truth: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Doing so, enables us to rightly view that which at one time or another may have only appeared to have been a speck in our eye. Sadly, we are all far too quick to magnify the sin we see in our brother’s eye rather than focus on our own (Matt. 7:2—5). A lack of self-examination often leads to a self-righteous spirit, and ultimately to a swift overreaction to error we see in others and in the church.