God has been very good to me. Unfortunately, I have to admit that at times I have the bad habit of focusing on my flaws instead of God's mercy and kindness. Do I really think that my human imperfections matter more than the greatness of the Lord? No, but it can be easy for me to get caught up in this negative type of introspection.
Every flaw looks magnified when inspected up close.
The world becomes a very small place indeed when we focus on ourselves to this degree. I know better than this but still catch myself doing it. There's nothing that imprisons a person as much as being overly preoccupied with yourself does. When it comes to spiritual matters, self-absorption is downright dangerous.
I'm quite sure we impede the work of the Holy Spirit when we worry about our spiritual progress. It's as if we were saying to the Lord, "I can't trust you with my sanctification. I am worried about my holiness because I don't quite believe you are powerful or loving enough to take care of this for me." Or perhaps we think he'll let us down and that we won't reach the impossibly high standards of holiness that we set up for ourselves with our fallen natures that (of course) know better than God what holiness is.
In other words...
...I am convinced that our own idea of holiness and God's are different. Very different.
Sooner or later everyone must get rid of the false gods they have set up for themselves...and the most difficult one to boot off the throne is the god of self. It's been a problem since the Garden of Eden and is no less of one today. The apple doesn't fall far from tree. Those who think they have escaped this aspect of the fall of man are deceiving themselves. The saints didn't think they were saints; they understood the depths of their fallen nature and their total dependence on God's mercy. They knew they were sinners in deep need of salvation. Once self has been kicked off the throne it becomes very clear that this is true in our own lives as well. One of the biggest obstacles to becoming a saint is thinking you are one already. The humble KNOW they are sinners but this doesn't bother them to a great degree because:
Humility is God's Anesthesia. Where humility reigns so does trust in the mercy of God. This trust goes a long way toward smoothing the path of life. Though the humble may suffer as much as other people, they are not as troubled by it. Their hearts stay peaceful.
Those who "pick" on themselves are playing God. It's like saying to God, "I know what's wrong with me more than you do." Which isn't true, of course. He knows us through and through. No aspect of your being is hidden from Him. The difference between accusing ourselves and the Holy Spirit's conviction of sin is like night and day. Some of the signs to watch out for are these:
Scrupulosity - Definitely not of God.
Confusion over sins - The Holy Spirit brings clarity.
Despair or hopelessness - Satan's doing the accusing here.
Depression - This is an odd one. We know there are cases of physical depression so this is a bit harder to discern but depression can have spiritual roots as well. For those who don't normally battle depression this can be a clear sign that we are trying to "outrun" the Holy Spirit rather than waiting for His light.
Frustration - "This is ridiculous! It's impossible not to sin!" Well, of course. And God well knows this. Even the saints fell.
When we see these things at play then we know it's a good time to step back and reevaluate our spiritual lives. The signs I mention above are good clues that we have not yet ceded control of our lives over to God and are depending on our limited human understanding rather than the wisdom that comes from above.
When I catch myself acting as my own "judge and jury" I try to put a check on it before I get carried away and I turn my focus toward God instead. (And I learned this the hard way!) I have come to the realization that it's always best to wait for the Holy Spirit to bring things to light because He is far gentler than we are. Trying to outrun the Holy Spirit almost always leads to a lack of peace and joy. It's important that we accept ourselves, wherever we are in our spiritual walk. God is patient and we should be as well.
No structure of virtue can possibly be raised in our soul unless, first, the foundations of true humility are laid in our heart. St John Cassian