Dust Specks and Logs

By Marjorie F. Eddington

Categories: Dealing with Emotions, Family and Friendship, Relationships, Sermon on the Mount

We know what it’s like to get a speck of dust or sand in our eye: it hurts. Sometimes we can’t even open our eye as we try to get it out, blinking rapidly, or moving our eyeball, or washing water across it to flush out that unwanted intruder. But when it’s gone, we feel all right; we’re able to see clearly again.

So how would our interactions change if we are just as vigorous in getting rid of any attitudinal dust specks that would get in the way of seeing our family members, children, friends, colleagues, and even ourselves in God’s own likeness? Maybe we already do that. Maybe we could use some encouragement.

Jesus commanded, “First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye” (Matt 5:5 NLT). First and foremost, we rid ourselves of anything that would agitate our own thoughts, that would cause harm, or cloud our ability to see as God would have us see. Then, we can be ever so merciful and kind in helping others get rid of what is hurting them.

So what logs are harmful? What’s in the way? Criticism. Condemnation. Contempt. Jesus was just explaining, “Don’t criticise people, and you will not be criticised. For you will be judged by the way you criticise others…” (Matt 7:1-2 Phillips). Usually, when we criticize others, there’s also some self-criticism happening. Removing the log requires us not only to stop judging others, but also to stop condemning ourselves for mistakes we’ve made. Let’s remember that we are all God’s children. Who are we to criticize God for how God made each one of us—“very good” (Gen 1:31)?!

Criticism does not help; it hurts. It gets in the way of real connection. Judgmentalism ties us to the problem rather than enabling us to find solutions. It keeps us trapped in the past so we’re not moving freely in the present. And self-condemnation is a particularly nasty and pernicious log, for it would pin us down under fear and shame. But we don’t have to stay pinned; we can look at difficult situations or mistakes we’ve made as opportunities to love more—to love ourselves, to love others, to accept God’s love for us, to trust God to communicate to everyone involved.

Let’s say a child or spouse speaks rudely to us. We take offense, engage in an argument, get angry, and yell—not something that really works to build relationships or solve problems. We have some choices.

We can keep the logs in our eyes.

  • We can judge them—blame them for their disrespect, criticize them, and attach rudeness to them.
  • We can judge ourselves—blame ourselves for losing our cool and spiral down into self-condemnation.

Or we can remove the log from our own eyes.

  • We can refuse to criticize and instead, be compassionate.
  • We can choose to see this as an opportunity for growth in patience, grace, and love.
  • We can take responsibility for our actions (without condemning ourselves) and apologize to the other person for yelling (and do this without expecting them to apologize or requiring them to own up to their own actions).
  • We can recommit to staying calm and peaceful regardless of what others do.
  • We can also be grateful for the times when we did stay calm, when we did provide a safe space for our family members to share their feelings and deal with their emotions, when we did listen to their fears without criticizing them.

Recognizing the Godlike identity of every individual, including ourselves, clears out the log that’s obstructing our own vision and frees us from the painful effects of self-condemnation and contempt for others. Then, if we notice that others are suffering from a speck of dust in their eye, we are spiritually and emotionally equipped to help them remove it—not by criticizing them for struggling with it, but by seeing and cherishing their true God-given natures, which are complete, loving, kind, responsible, gentle, helpful, pure, respectful.

So the next time we’re tempted to criticize, we can magnify all the good we see. And there’s so much good because we’re all made in God’s “very good” likeness. That’s the loving and true view that clears away the logs and dust specks … and heals.