focus on the plank

Another of my favorite passages of Jesus’ goes as follows:

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

This ties in with my comments on loving others.  If we take our focus off the faults that we see in others, it makes it much easier to love them.  As Jesus also points out, our vision/perception of those faults are greatly altered and distorted by our own faults and prejudices (the plank in our eye).

Every single person sees the world (and therefore sees others) through their own “lenses” that they’ve built up over their lives.  These lenses are based on our prejudices, opinions, judgments, preconceptions, etc.   For example, if every policeman someone has met has been the one to pull them over and give them a ticket for speeding, their view of another policeman (call him Fred) would be negative.  Alternatively, a good driver who’s never been pulled over but has been helped by the police to find their lost purse would view Fred in a very positive light.  The same policeman (Fred) was viewed by both people, but their prejudices of policemen in general affect how he’s seen quite significantly.

This is what I think Jesus was referring to when he spoke of us removing the “plank” from our eye before helping our brother with his own faults.  If our view of the world is distorted, we’re in no shape to correct someone else’s view of the world.

So instead of focusing on fixing the faults or failings of others, we should focus on our own faults and failings.  If we do that, our lives will be an example to our brother who could then remove his “speck” on his own and without having that confrontation.

It’s like St. Francis of Assisi says, “preach the gospel and, when necessary, use words.”  So much more power is in leading by example and improving our own lives than in directing and correcting others.  There are some extreme examples where we’re supposed to speak out, of course, but most of the times this isn’t the case.

For your own reflection, think about one prejudice or tainted view you might have that affects how you see certain people.  Reflect on that and expose it (in your mind) and, after some time, it will probably drop away.  Also, be constantly aware of the inclination to correct someone else.  If it’s not important enough, keep it to yourself and remind yourself of that “plank” you’re working on.  It doesn’t hurt to offer a prayer for that person, of course!

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