The Reticular Activating System

“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Matthew 7:3).

The Reticular Activating System is part of the brain that causes us to sense things around us. This is what causes us to be more alert to others who have the same model of car as the one we recently purchased. We never noticed those cars before; but now, it seems, they’re everywhere! It also makes us more alert to the sins of others which we are guilty of ourselves.

Nathan the prophet told David of a man who had wronged his neighbor. “And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die…” (2 Samuel 12:5). David was quick to criticize and judge the actions of the individual in the prophet’s story because he was guilty of the same sin. “And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man…” (2 Samuel 12:7}. We tend to react the most to the very same sins which we are guilty of ourselves.

Teenagers will react to the defiance and disobedience of the toddler they’re babysitting, yet fail to see those same attitudes in themselves. Parents respond in anger toward the rebellious attitudes of their teenager, yet are unaware of their own disrespect towards authority. We tend to be particularly harsh with the failures of our own children which are a mirror of our own wrong attitudes.

Several years ago I spoke with a respected church leader who shared with me his concerns about a rebellious teenage son. In that same conversation, this church leader boasted about travelling down the highway at 125 mph in his new car. He also reacted against a new government tax by insisting that he for one wouldn’t be paying it. Yet this man failed to see the correlation between his son’s rebellion and his own rebellious attitude.

After a long stretch of road construction, a sign read: “End of construction. Thanks for your patience.” Someone commented that those words would be a fitting inscription on a Christian’s tombstone. Oh, how we need to be patient with one another – especially those in our own family. Let’s not be so quick to react harshly to one another; but to pray as David prayed: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).

Morris Hull, Home Life Ministries