I noticed with some amusement a mistake I had made in an earlier article. Apparently I quoted the Western “Dessert” Fathers, Instead of the Western “Desert” Fathers, saying, “If you have a snake or a scorpion, put it in a box and put the lid on it, and sooner or later it will die.” I take it that the Western Dessert Fathers wore powder blue leisure suits and lived primarily on cheesecake and mimosas; while the Western Desert Fathers wore coarse garments, spent their time praying and fasting, and also recorded a few of their pithy sayings.
Everybody makes mistakes and even Smellcheck can’t catch them all. Mothers and fathers make mistakes, old and young make mistakes, smart people and not-so-smart people make mistakes. Lay people make mistakes. Bishops, priests, and deacons make mistakes. Pharisees and Sadducees make mistakes. Making mistakes is a normal part of life.
Did I say, “Pharisees” make mistakes? Here we have a problem. Pharisees don’t accept a fact that is obvious to everybody around them, that is that even Pharisees make mistakes. They also don’t accept that others are allowed to make mistakes. The result is that they spend an inordinate amount of time correcting other people’s mistakes. They live for the adrenalin rush that comes when they can point out the mistakes of everybody around them.
I once had a prominent and very devout church member who felt that it was his spiritual
right every Monday, to present the Office Staff with a list of their mistakes in the Sunday bulletin. Those who knew him knew that he had a few glaring flaws of his own, notably a lack of love and common courtesy, and a serious problem with shaming and blaming. His attitude was like painting a “correct” smile on the Mona Lisa; it spoiled his reflection of the image of Christ.
The problem we face is that while some are blatant Pharisees, there is a little streak of the Pharisee in the best of us. It is so very easy to cloak our own anxieties and feelings of inadequacy by critiquing others.
Two things will help. The first is the simple acknowledgement that everybody makes mistakes. Second, we need to lighten up and develop a sense of humour. Who knows? There may actually be some Western Dessert Fathers who wear blue leisure suits, and live entirely on cheesecake and mimosas.