“Why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?”
Specks and logs. It’s a humorous way to tackle a serious problem, and that problem is simply the critical spirit.
It’s amazingly consistent and predictable. When I am most out-of-step with Christ, I am most judgmental and critical of those around me. Stress, weariness, being uncomfortable in my own skin, sickness, fear, and woundedness. Reasons abound that might explain why I get so twisted out of shape by someone else’s actions or attitudes. Sometimes, there’s little reason or explanation.
You’d think I might show some selectivity. Surely I would save my harshest words for politicians or personalities that I’ve never met, or unnamed people who threaten my values, faith, or freedom. But no, I can be just as acidic with those close to me–my brothers and friends whom Jesus specifically mentions in His question.
Undoubtedly, any venom that I spit forth must be well-deserved. I’d never just randomly highlight the stupidity, ineptitude, or hypocrisy of someone else. They either deserve what I dish out, or others need to know about them so they can avoid being swept into the maelstrom of evil.
I’m a generally good-willed person, which guarantees that any harsh assessments that I deliver come from an honorable place within me. And I’ve been around the block a few times, so I have enough experience to see the true faults in others.
This thinking drives the great self-deception.
Leaders eventually learn (and re-learn, and re-learn, and re-learn) that negativity diminishes our authority. People’s lives are generally far too complex for us to assess lightly or quickly; even people we know well. Authentic leadership, which I want, requires that I evaluate myself fairly, honestly, and deeply.
My critical spirit may emerge from envy, hurt, self-righteousness, ambition, racism (dare we consider the possibility?), or a raft of other ungodly and unsanctified elements within me. I might point out a failure in my brother, and yet carry within me hostility, anger, unforgiveness, resentment, bitterness, and gossip.
How might we see the log in our own eye today, and what steps can we take to address it? Perhaps some spiritual self-surgery (confession and repentance) would enable us to extend more grace to others, see the world more positively, lead with greater authority, and truly thrive.
And let’s consider turning this ninth day of Lent into a criticism-free day. Look for the best in others and speak forth those things. Or, as my mother used to say, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”