“Set, O Lord, a guard over my mouth; keep watch, O Lord, at the door of my lips! Do not turn my heart to things that are wrong, to evil deeds with those who are sinners. Never allow me to share in their feasting…let the oil of the wicked not anoint my head. Let my prayer be ever against their malice.” Psalms 141:3-5 (Grail Version)
We live in a culture of contempt, of ridicule; a society that seems to delight in the exposure and public parading of the failures of others. It’s almost become a kind of entertainment in some venues.
When I read these verses in the Psalms, I was particularly struck by the phrase, “Never allow me to share in their feasting…”. It’s an interesting image: people satisfying their appetite for scandal, propping up their own prideful sense of themselves as better than another person by mocking another’s faults and failures. Many seem to have an “appetite” for finding that hidden weakness and triumphantly asserting their own rectitude as they point out where some public figure has fallen or failed to live a perfect life. Hence, we see that “all or nothing” thinking that leads to the pulling down of statues of Christopher Columbus, or George Washington (he did own slaves, you know…), or even St Junipero Serra. We have the total discounting of all the good that a person has done in their life. As has been said, in our current day, “everything is tolerated, but nothing is forgiven.”
It’s easy to get caught up in this kind of activity; it’s a kind of bad “infection” that’s easily spread. I can find myself getting into that critical mode of thinking, and before long, I can get drawn in too.
Before that happens, I need to ask the Holy Spirit to tap me on the shoulder and alert me if I am getting into enjoying the “game” of tearing someone down rather than thinking mercifully and compassionately about them or their situation. I need not agree with the sin I see, nor lower God’s standards; true compassion and real love require truth. I simply need humbly to ask for the grace not to have an appetite for criticism and judgement. And counter the malice with prayer for them and myself.
“Do not turn my heart to things that are wrong… never allow me to share in their feasting…Let my prayer be ever against their malice.”. And most of all, “Set, O Lord, a guard over my mouth; keep watch, O Lord, at the door of my lips!”.