The scriptures tell us, "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts" (Proverbs 21:2).

It is an interesting fact that most people have the firm opinion that whatever they think or do is always right. Although this is especially true of such things as political and religious beliefs, it also extends to almost every aspect of life. And this phenomenon occurs just as much among Christians as it does to non-Christians. For example, a person listens to someone teaching a gospel principle or even reads the Bible and many times thinks to themselves, "I know someone who could really benefit from this." It is somewhat unusual that they see themselves as needing to apply the lesson to their own behavior.

Take the case a husband and wife who have recently had an argument with one another. Each side believes that they are in the right, so the husband shouts at his wife and the wife response with sarcastic comments. The next day they each read the scriptures which says, "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another" (Romans 12:10). The husband thinks to himself, "I sure hope my wife gets the message of this scripture because she wasn't very affectionate with her words to me," and the wife thinks to herself, "I sure hope my husband gets the message of this scripture because he was stubbornly preferring his erroneous viewpoint to my correct position."

If the husband were asked if he was being affectionate to his wife, he would remember all those times in the past when he had shown her his love. If the wife were asked if she was preferring her husband over her own viewpoint, she would cite incidents in the past when she had shown him preference. Therefore, in both of their eyes, they each think that they are living according to the way this scripture says, while feeling that it is the other person who is violating God's counsel.

We all have a natural tendency to behave this way, and Jesus even addressed this kind of attitude when He said, “why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?" (Matthew 7:3,4).

It is so easy for us to see the faults of others, but for some reason, man has been born with the inability to see the same faults in themselves. It's as though we can only see in one direction. Our internal eyesight is well adapted to looking outward at others but has to be trained to look inward. When someone points out our faults, it's as though they are holding a mirror in front of us but we refuse to believe that the person we see in it is us.

And associated with this kind of behavior is the attitude of becoming defensive when someone points out our faults. For some reason, we tend to be offended when told that we are doing something wrong, and our natural tendency is to want to strike back at the offender. Even when we know that what we are doing is wrong, our natural reaction is to dig in our heels, so to speak, like a stubborn mule, and refuse to budge from our position And the more someone tries to convince us of the error of our ways, the more we resist their efforts to change us. More often than not, what we tend to do is fight back, with the intent to offend or hurt those who are offending or hurting us. And there are a variety of ways we do this from using sharp, sarcastic words, to finding fault with the person we're arguing with, to acting smug and aloof as though our position is so superior to theirs that their comments don't even warrant being dignified with an answer.

The Pharisees in the days of Jesus had this same problem. They were hypocrites in the true sense of the word, yet, in their own minds, they sincerely believed that they were living the law of Moses as God intended them to. Since they thought they were following the law of God better than most, they exhibited an attitude of superiority because they really thought that God was more pleased with them than He was with others. To them, it was Jesus who was violating the law of God because He didn't agree with their viewpoint. When Jesus had the audacity to correct them, they were filled with righteous indignation at His blasphemy. When Jesus "proved" their ideas were wrong using the very scriptures they believed in, they became irritated with Him. When they couldn't argue against His logic, they became angry.

This inability to see our own faults and become defensive when they are pointed out isn’t the way a few people act some of the time. This is the way nearly everyone reacts most of the time, at least at some point in their life. And that’s because such behavior is natural. We don’t have to think about it or be taught how to do it. It just happens automatically. It' like an instinct we are born with. In fact, we have to be trained to behave just the opposite. And, in most cases, we don’t even realize we’re behaving that way. That’s how natural and normal this kind of behavior is.

There is something inside each of us that causes us to rebel at the idea of us being wrong. Because of the way we are designed, our mind just assumes that whatever we believe has to be correct and just accepts that as a fact. As such, it is hard for most people to even recognize when they are wrong, because most of the time all they can see is their own viewpoint. It’s as though they’ve put blinders on that forces them to only see one direction while blocking everything else from their view. In that way they have a hard time seeing any other perspective but thei own.

But, even when most people are told this, they will immediately think of someone else who has this fault rather than wonder if it applies to them. That's because most people consider themselves to be open minded, reasonable, and fair. It is almost always the other person who is viewed as being stubborn, irrational and unjust. Not even when the most obvious faults are pointed out will a person admit that they have them. And that's because no matter how outlandish a person's ideas or behavior is, they will always believe that their words and actions are reasonable and justifiable while feeling that it is the other person whose words or ideas are wrong.

We see this kind of behavior most clearly with those who use a double standard. For example, a person may condemn another for stealing money, but when they themselves are caught stealing money, they will argue that they weren't stealing. To the outside observer, it seems impossible that someone can condemn someone else for doing the very thing that they themselves do while excusing themselves for their own actions. Yet, we all have a tendency to do this to one degree or another, but most times we don't notice it because we find ways to justify what we say or do while refusing to accept the same justification in others. If we can think of a logical or reasonable explanation for what we say or do, then, in our own minds at least, we remain convinced that we are in the right. Therefore, when we have a disagreement with others we tend to conclude that it is must be the other person who is at fault.

Since all of us seem to be born with this tendency to be blind to our own faults while clearly seeing those of others, then how do we overcome this flaw in our character?

King Benjamin addressed this very problem of human nature when he said, "For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father" (Mosiah 3:19).

The "natural man" is someone who gives into his natural urges and instincts. He is someone who does that which comes naturally to him. And one of those natural instincts is to ignore or refuse to admit our own faults while condemning others for theirs. This is the way man was made and this is the way he will be forever "unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit.'

The purpose of the Holy Ghost is to help us become more like Christ. The Lord explained to His ancient apostles, "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:26). In our day the Lord explained, "And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good,;yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit. Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy" (D&C 11:12,13).

The way the Holy Ghost entices us is by leading or persuading us "to do good." And the way He does this is by enlightening our minds in an effort to teach us how to be just, which includes learning how to judge righteously. When we condemn others for doing the same thing we do, that is not judging righteously, but it is the natural thing for us to do. Therefore, we have to learn how to overcome our natural tendency to be unjust.

But we can't learn to do that unless someone shows us how and that is where the Holy Ghost comes in. He is like a teacher and we are His students. If our desire is to become more Christ-like, then our responsibility is to yield or submit ourselves to His instruction. When we do that, then He is willing to teach us all that we need to know to become like Christ. But when we refuse to heed His counsel, He honors our wish to be left alone and stops trying to teach us what we don't want to hear.

One of the ways He teaches us is by making us aware of our faults. After all, the first step to solving any problem is to acknowledge that there is a problem. If we don't recognize that we have any faults then there can be no desire to want to correct them. In some of the Protestant faiths, they refer to this as God "convicting" us of our sins. Although this is one way of stating it, as Latter-day Saints, we don't use that particular phrase. Instead, we say that God shows us our weaknesses (see Jacob 4:7; Ether 12:27).

However, when someone shows us our weaknesses, our natural tendency is to become defensive and our first instinct is to behave as though we are under attack. When that happens, we immediately construct an emotional fortress to protect ourselves from what we perceive as the barbed arrows that are being hurled at us. And it is from behind this barrier that we then hurl our own arrows back at the person we think is attacking us.

This is also how the natural man reacts to the Holy Ghost whenever He tries to show us our weaknesses. We retreat into ourselves, slam the door shut so He cannot enter our lives, close the windows of our mind so He cannot enlighten us and plug our ears so we cannot hear what He is saying. And it is from this position that we resist the enticings of Holy Ghost.

The scriptures refer to this as having "a hard heart." In other places it refers to this as having a heart "firm as a stone" (Job 41:24), or a "stony heart" (Ezek. 11:19). Hard stone is impenetrable, that is to say, nothing get through it. When our heart and mind are firm as a stone, the Holy Ghost cannot get through to us, so we have effectively shut Him out of our life. It's as though we've built a stone wall between Him and us. This is the natural state of man.

Even so, the Holy Ghost still continues to entice us to listen to Him, patiently waiting for us to open up ourselves to His instruction. But, more than that, He tries to soften our hearts so He can make an impression upon our mind. The scriptures refer to this as having a humble spirit and a contrite heart. Isaiah explained, "For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones" (Isaiah 57:15). It is by humbling ourselves that we allow the Holy Ghost to enter into our life where we can then hear His message. It is by having a contrite heart that the message of the Holy Ghost can then touch our soul.

The opposite of this is being proud and arrogant, which is the way man is naturally inclined to behave. And it is because of his pride that man is convinced that he is never wrong. That is why man doesn't want to listen to what the Holy Ghost has to say. Therefore, in order for the Holy Ghost to teach us, we have to be willing to submit ourselves to His correction first before we can benefit from His instruction. But as long as we resist doing this, we will remain in our natural state, which state King Benjamin tells us is an enemy to God. As the Lord said through Isaiah, only those who are humble and contrite will "dwell in the high and holy place" with God.

It is interesting to notice that a truly humble person is one who readily admits their mistakes. The apostle Paul admitted, "For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do" (Romans 7:19). Nephi wrote of himself, "I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me" (2 Nephi 4:18). Alma exclaimed, "Yea, I know that I am nothing" (Alma 26:12) and Moses made the same observation about himself (Moses 1:10). Moroni asked us not to condemn him because of his imperfections (Mormon 8:12) and even Joseph Smith wrote of his own failings and shortcomings.

However, when the natural man reads where prophets call people to repentance they use this example to justify themselves pointing out other people's mistakes. However, in their own mind they feel they are only behaving that way to help others become better. Yet, the natural man is more interested in pointing out the faults of others than correcting their own shortcomings. The fallacy with this argument is that prophets have been specifically called by God to cry repentance. In other words, it is a duty they have been assigned to fulfill and a responsibility that God requires them to shoulder.

But this calling is not extended to everyone. Instead, it is given only to a relatively few number of people. That is why the Lord has specifically commanded us to, "Judge not that ye be not judged, for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." (Matthew 7:1,2). Therefore, "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven" (Luke6:37). Those who take upon themselves the duty to correct the errors they see in others are running a great risk, because they leave themselves opened to being judged by their own standards, and, if they are not quick to forgive the faults they see in others, then the Lord will not be quick to forgive their faults.

But Joseph Smith taught us another principle associated with judging others. He wrote, "We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion." He further taught that when we do exercise dominion over the "children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is Grieved" and when it is grieved, it too withdraws from us. And before we know it, such a person finds themselves fighting against God (See D&C 121:37-39).

Those who suppose they need to point out other people's mistakes stand to lose the guidance of the Holy Ghost if they judge others in an unrighteous manner. And when that happens, they find themselves being enticed more and more by their own natural inclinations rather than listening to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. And if they are not careful, they will soon find themselves becoming an enemy to God as their heir pride and arrogance increases and their heart grows harder.

What makes this so hard to overcome is that the more we depend on our natural instincts the more convinced we become in the rightness of our own position and the less inclined we become to change our own behavior. On the other hand, those who seek to follow the enticings of the Holy Ghost have a greater desire to change their own thoughts and actions to conform to God's ways rather than desiring to change the behavior of others.

But, even for them, it is a constant struggle because without the Spirit's direction they will find themselves continually being enticed by their human nature. Therefore, it takes constant attention to the things of God to guard against this tendency. Yet, it is in struggling that we become spiritually stronger and therefore better prepared to live with the Holy One in eternity. Those who are not willing to commit themselves to endure this struggle will have to settle for a far less weight of glory. While it is true that we are all born with the same human nature to sin, in the end it is how we use that nature that makes the real difference between the natural man and the man of God. And that difference comes by following the Spirit of God

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