This is our truth, tell us yours
Many sayings from the bible have entered the collective pool of wisdom, to be trotted out when words or emotions fail to come up with a more novel response. This isn’t always a bad thing, sometimes we struggle to find the right words, and having a shared libuary to fall back on can allow us to express how we feel. Every platitude is not a result of not caring, sometimes in fact its the very opposite.
Physican heal thyself is an odd one though. Jesus uses it as something people are familiar with, yet it appears nowhere else in the bible. It was obviously familiar to his listeners, but the meaning may have been very different to them. It comes in the middle of his rejection by the people of Nazareth, refusing to accept the son of the local carpenter has anything to say to them. Presumably they remembered him as someone with dirty hands, a barefoot boy playing in the streets, and could not reconcile this image with the prophet and teacher who had set the whole country alight with his words and deeds.
We still use the phrase to suggest that those who have some form of authority should first look to their own wellbeing, and if they are less than perfect we question their right to that authority. This seems very dangerous to me. The desire to appear without flaws in those with authority means we can hide our own weaknesses to the detriment of all. If you follow me on twitter you will know that today Amanda Williamson has finally been able to speak publicly of the abuse she received at the hands of someone who was supposed to be not only in authority, but a place of trust. You can read about why she, and Tina Welch have chosen to be public about what happened here. One of the very worrying things in the Daily Mail article is the attitude of the abuser. Unwilling to consider he may have behaved wrongly his self-image is it seems bound up with the idea of him being perfect, infallible.
One does not have to have committed illegal, or abusive acts to need to consider that weaknesses, flaws, and failures are to be accepted . When we set ourselves up as existing without them we are in fact setting ourselves up as destined to fail. It takes strength to admit to a weakness, to say yes, I can fail, but only if we have that strength can we learn and grow.
It also takes strength for a group to accept that those they place in authority might have weaknesses, but still be worth listening too. The people of Nazareth could not accept that someone they knew so well was the prophet everyone was talking about, they couldn’t get past the fact Jesus was human, as well as divine. You don’t have to have faith to recognize that tendency still existing today, from the delight in a celebrities cellulite to the demands we place on our doctor’s, nurses, teachers, therapists, and yes politicians. When we insist on others behaving as if they have no weaknesses we also deny ourselves the ability to learn from others who are as flawed as us.