“What is that book you’re reading,” said one movie character to another.

“Great Expectations,” the other character replied.

“Is it any good?”

“Well, it’s not all I had hoped for.”

Here we are—the beginning of 2021—and people’s expectations are sky high for the year. Great expectations for elected officials, for church leaders, entertainers, athletes and others. Great expectations, it seems, for everyone but the one person over whom we have control—ourselves.

There is a tendency in human nature to judge other people more harshly than we do ourselves—to hold others to a higher standard. Jesus challenges that way of thinking, when He taught about removing the plank in our own eye before turning attention to others (Matt. 7:3-5).

These days, we as a society have given full vent to attitudes that are exceedingly harsh on others. We criticize decisions related to the Coronavirus. With great ease, we boo our local, state, national and world leaders. We even have taken to a daily routine of criticizing anything and everything on social media.

Hance Dilbeck summed it up in these words. “There’s a word you don’t hear every day. Censoriousness—‘adjective; a person inclined to judge too severely; carping, critical, faultfinding.’ We might not hear that word often, but we find ourselves living in a world of censoriousness.”

What are the results of this trend toward censoriousness? It has created divisions in the Body of Christ. It has led toward discouragement. It has made people who might otherwise step into servant leader roles want to shy away from public service or even the ministry.

Added to this, it has done harm to the person who has made a habit of criticism. C.S. Lewis said, “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” I myself find it easy to have a Pharisee attitude, to pass judgment in a self-righteous, censoriousness manner.

Thankfully, our Lord and Master provided the way out in the form of repentance and renewal. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:1-5).

Today, when you feel that hypocritical, hyper-critical attitude welling up in your heart or mouth, step back from it and look up to Jesus.

If we can improve, day by day, person by person, we will be amazed at what God can accomplish through us. It will exceed even our greatest expectations.