There is a wonderful story in the Bible about a man who wanted to take a small speck of sawdust out of another person’s eye, but failed to see a two-by-four plank that was in his own eye.
I love-hate preaching on this story because it hits so close to home.
It reminds me that my own faults are usually greater than the faults I see in others. Additionally, the faults in my neighbor that drive me batty are often intimately related to my own issues.
This simple story has proven to be very difficult for me. I cannot avoid seeing myself in this story. I have been both the person who sees faults in others and the person whose small fault has been exaggerated through the eye of another.
Because of this discomfort, I have come to discover new truths, or at least new learnings for me.
First, I have come to embrace the fact that people know things about me that I do not know about myself. The person who saw the speck of sawdust in his neighbor’s eye had no idea of the size of the plank that was in his own eye.
There is much more about me than I realize. This is a frightening thought on its surface, but after reflection it develops a curiosity in me. Is it possible that I might discover new things about myself that will alter my view of myself?
That little story implies that possibility. It also offers a means for me to access that new knowledge of myself.
I can gather that knowledge from others. Their objective vantage point provides them with a different perspective of my life. They are capable of reflecting aspects of my life that are not accessible to me. They can serve as mirrors of the aspects of my life that my subjectivity will not allow me to see.
Second, I subconsciously project onto others my shortcomings or my vulnerable issues. In my speculation about the gentleman with the plank in his eye, I believe on some deep level, he knew there was “misplaced wood” in his being. When he saw a little speck of sawdust in his neighbor’s eye, his need to be whole screamed at him.
Unfortunately, the result was his criticism of his neighbor.
Here is a second source of self-revelation. My neighbor’s issues that cause great emotions in me can serve as a start point for deeper reflection. As I explore those emotions, I have the potential of discovering new paths to wholeness.
Third, there are times when I am the recipient of someone’s misguided critique. In those times, I can console myself. I can remind myself that the critique is probably based on the other person’s need for personal growth and self-reflection.
The bottom line is this: Many of the difficult encounters I have in life are really avenues to deeper levels of self-discovery and growth.
The Rev. Dr. Jon R. Black is senior pastor at Campbell Chapel A.M.E. Church in Bluffton.