There’s this verse in the Bible that goes something like, “Don’t look for the speck of dust in someone else’s eye and ignore the tree branch in your own.” To modern ears that’s a bit strange, and it gets even better if you read the King James Version:
“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”
Mote. Great word. Too bad it fell out of usage. “Do you mind sweeping up that mote of cake from the floor?” “I seem to have a mote of tuna salad on my pants…”
Mote. That’s almost as good as modicum.
Anyway…while the wording of the verse may be a bit interesting (after all, who wouldn’t notice if a tree branch had punctured your eye?), the concept behind it is fairly simple: don’t be so blinded by what you see as a fault in someone elses life that you miss the fault in your own.
As an individual, this has never be a problem for me. I know my faults pretty well, which is to say I know my faults like a geek knows his Star Wars trivia. (Quick, name the character who’s arm got chopped off by Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Mos Eisley cantina!) I wouldn’t say I obsess over them, but I try to keep my weaknesses under review so I can always look for improvement.
While this can occasionally produce a bout of nuerosis, it does have a great side benefit: it means I have less time to obsess over the faults of others. That doesn’t mean that I don’t; I can rattle off many things about many people that bother me greatly, but in general I try not to base my life around endlessly correcting people who have gone astray in my view.
This comes in handy quite often on the Internet. If I read something that offends or bothers me, I generally tend to say, “Wow. That bothers me. Hmmm. What should I do? Do I comment? Write a response on my blog? Maybe create a new meme from an online meme generator? Or stage a protest rally at my favorite restaurant? Thinking…thinking… Nah, I’ll just go check my email. I’ve got other things to do.”
Lately, I’ve noticed that there is a small group of people who do not seem to share this character trait. If they read something on Facebook, Twitter, CNN, FoxNews, Disney Junior, with which they disagree, their response seems to be more in the vein of:
“DEATH! DEATH TO THE TRANSGRESSORS! YAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!”
And why? Because of the mote. The speck. That thing in someone else’s life that really bugs them and makes them lose their junk.
Or, as my great-grandmother used to call it, “Pitch a hissy fit.”
Mote-noting seems to be gaining popularity as people in the digital age seem less and less inclined to just let things go. We are becoming a nation of intruders, on both the left and the right, butting in wherever we see the particular mote that we note and trying to scream people into submission to our view. And if you don’t believe me, just wait until the presidential campaigns kick into high gear.
I wrote some on this yesterday, about how the words that we sling into the atmosphere can crush someone quite easily. I can’t tell you how many people contacted me yesterday and said, “You nailed it. I’m feeling that exact same way.”
It’s fatiguing, and it is also dangerous. Because when everything is a hyper-sensitive issue, or everything is a massive lose-your-junk event, then all of life becomes shrill, and truly important things fall by the wayside.
It’s a cacophony (another great word) of rage. It’s chaos. Lunacy.
And it’s everywhere. So what’s the solution?
It’s painfully simple: concentrate on the tree branches in our own eyes. Back when the Chick-fil-A brouhaha started, I read a great blog post by a young man named Dale Brown. Dale happens to be married to a former student of mine, and he’s also a priest. I thought his view bears repeating (though I recommend reading the entire blog):
This world will become holy only through individual men and women becoming holy, and that has to begin with us. Therefore, tomorrow I will not be at Chick-Fil-A, but I will say a prayer, read Scripture, attempt patience, forgive those that wrong me, practice silence, ask for forgiveness; and through cooperating with the Grace of God in the Presence of Holy Spirit maybe a small insignificant part of America will be sanctified tomorrow in that with God’s help I myself might be made holier than I am today.
You may not be religious, but Dale is spot on: only by looking to correct our own lives can we expect the world to become a better place.
Motes, beams, specks and branches. Let the sawdust fly.