Welcome to Rat Finks Anonymous

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By Nancy Kennedy

This morning I was morally outraged.
Mad as a wet hen or a hornet — or maybe even a wet hornet.
I had stopped to get doughnuts to bring in to work and saw a sheriff’s deputy make a right turn out of the drive through and then a left turn onto the street, violating not one, but two posted signs that say clearly “LEFT TURN ONLY” and “RIGHT TURN ONLY.”
I wrote down the license number of the car the perp was driving, fully intending on doing my civic duty as soon as I got in to work by calling the sheriff himself on his cell phone to inform him that one of his deputies (whose salary comes from my tax dollars) made TWO illegal turns.
Although I didn’t know exactly what I would tell the sheriff (or why it bothered me like it did), I was ready to give him an earful — until I remembered that a deputy had pulled me over only a few weeks earlier because both my headlights were out and it was dark and, therefore, I was violating the law by driving with no lights on.
I could argue that I didn’t knowingly and willingly and with forethought break the law and didn’t even know my lights were out until I was on a dark street near my house.
The deputy who stopped me kindly gave me a warning, told me to get my headlights fixed and let me drive home since I was less than ¼ mile from my house. Technically, I violated the law, but the law man let it go.
While I greatly appreciate not getting a ticket, this morning I didn’t appreciate my moral outrage being interrupted. Sometimes you just want to tattle on someone.
In my family, I was known as the tattletale. When my youngest brother first met my husband he warned him that I was the family rat fink. The other day I read that in the old time gangster heyday of Al Capone and Bugsy Malone, a rat fink ranked lower than low.
A fink might crack under police pressure and rat others out, yet still take the rap as an accomplice. But a rat fink blabbed to the cops covertly, protecting himself so he could move up the ranks within his criminal organization.
I don’t think God looks highly upon rat finks and tattletales.
That’s not saying there isn’t a legitimate time and place for whistle blowing and confronting people’s sin. I’m talking about wanting to tell on somebody just because it’s fun to see someone else get in trouble, just because it makes you feel morally superior and better about yourself when you can point out the flaws of others.
Sadly, that goes on in churches all the time. It goes on under the guise of “sharing prayer requests” and church discipline with the intent of shaming the person caught in sin.
It’s been said that when you go to confront another person about his or her sin, you better do it with tears in your eyes and a deep sense that you’re no different — or you better not go at all.
The apostle Paul addressed this in his letter to the Galatians. In the Amplified Bible he writes, “Brethren, if any person is overtaken in misconduct or sin of any sort, you who are spiritual …  should set him right and restore and reinstate him, without any sense of superiority and with all gentleness, keeping an attentive eye on yourself, lest you should be tempted also.”
Paul goes on to tell them (and us) to bear one another’s burdens and troublesome moral faults and that those who think themselves to be “ somebody [too important to condescend to shoulder another’s load] when he is nobody [of superiority except in his own estimation], he deceives and deludes and cheats himself” (Galatians 6:1-3).
That sure takes all the fun out of being a tattletale and especially being a rat fink.
God calls us to reconciliation and restoration. We’re to come alongside our brothers and sisters who are struggling with their sin and offer them compassion, even as we uphold the standard of biblical holiness and righteousness.
One of my favorite Bible verses is James 5:16 that says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” Notice it does not say “that you may be humiliated” or hit over the head.
We’re to offer a helping hand to one another, which is a far cry from being morally outraged.
I’m still bent out of shape about the deputy who made the illegal turns, but who knows that I won’t be the next one to be overtaken by sin? Plus, he might be the very one to help me — and he might even have a leftover doughnut or two.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via e-mail at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.