Regina was going off on her mother again to her friend Maryanne. Regina was describing her mother as a very controlling, and rather self-centered person, always disappointed if things don’t go her own way. Sure, Regina loved her Mom, but she would get so aggravated over the things she would say in their regular weekly phone conversations.
This was not the first time that Maryanne had heard this kind of outburst. Here’s the funny thing though: As Maryanne was listening to Regina, she was thinking to herself, “Doesn’t Regina realize that the very things that she complains about in her Mother, are the very things that she herself does! Why can’t she “connect the dots”?
I would venture to say that the little scene that I’ve described for you is pretty common. And many of you might be shaking your head and thinking that you’ve experienced that very thing yourself. Jesus says to us: “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?” A familiar passage from Scripture. It is obvious to all of us what Jesus is getting at. Yet, so often when we criticize another person, especially someone very close to us, we are really trying to make ourselves feel better about who we are. But Jesus is reminding us that no one has the right to criticize unless that person is free from faults—-and no one is free from faults.
Here’s an interesting way of putting it: “there’s so much bad in the best of us and so much good in the worst of us that it still becomes any of us to find fault with the rest of us”.
A retreat director, one time, in an attempt to drive home the point of this passage, makes use of the following exercise: the director asked each person in the group he was working with to call to mind a person that they found uniquely hard to take, and then to recount, in some detail, the characteristics of that person that made him or her so obnoxious—-so difficult to take. The people in that session certainly got into that exercise!
After a few minutes of silence, the director then offered this devastating recommendation: “Now I want each of you to return to your rooms and ask God to forgive you for those very faults in yourself”.
So, in the end, Jesus is asking all of us to “connect the dots”. Perhaps the very thing in another person that drives us crazy, is actually something that, deep down in ourselves, is a similar failing that we possess but just don’t see right away.
Maybe all of us, especially with the Season of Lent on the horizon, should do what that retreat director suggested: “Return to your rooms and ask God to forgive you for those very faults in yourself.” It may at first be an unnerving experience. But ultimately it will be illuminating, and healing.