Correction. Disagreement. I’ve been thinking on those topics off and on for several weeks. Specifically, how do I take correction? And how do you talk with someone about something you think is wrong in his or her character/actions? Because it’s not a comfortable topic. And let’s face it, none of us like to hear negative things. It’s completely normal to tune out, shut down, get defensive, or push back with negative observances of our own.
It seems that in our very loving, tolerant, post-modern culture, we no longer have a place to talk about these things. Judge not, right? Take care of the plank in your own eye. If someone doesn’t ask you for advice, then you have no right to go offer up what you think. But is that really true? Or healthy?
What if you are genuinely concerned? What if there’s something that truly bothers you. And you want to address it?
Strangely enough, I found a clue -- hiding right there in one of the passages used to propel the “leave well enough alone” strategy.
Matthew 7:4-5 “How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.”
While discussing this passage with some close friends, one person pointed out -- this passage doesn’t say that we shouldn’t remove the speck. It just says that we have to first deal with our plank. *click* Well look at that! Why didn’t that part of the passage ever jump out at me before?
That heartset makes all the difference. Uncomfortable topics have to be approached from a place of vulnerability (my eyes are jacked up too, but I’m working on it), and love (I’ve worked on my eyes so I can be in a better place to help you with yours).
The word “brother” is pivotal as well. Because those deeper, character defining things need to be addressed from a place of close relationship.
I also don’t think it’s an accident that this passage deals with eyes. Partially because of the whole “vision” concept, but also because eyes are so fragile. Dealing with eyes should be a gentle, careful process. (Not to be handled with powertools.)
I received some uncomfortable correction in the not so distant past. It’s part of what started me thinking on this topic. I was told things that were hard to hear. And what hurt most is that the comments seemed so off base. The person was close to me, and I could tell that they didn’t necessary want to hurt my feelings, but they were deeply bothered and concerned by what they perceived as a “speck” in my life.
So how do you deal with that? What I did: I listened. Reminded myself that this person loved me. Analyzed what they said. Did it have merit? Is this something I need to address? I got a second opinion from some others in my life that I feel have a good understanding of my character. And I came to my conclusion – while this person had good intentions, their perceptions were incomplete.
Sometimes we view people through dirty glasses. And sometimes the speck we see is on our glasses and not the person. (There’s a deep thought.)
But other times, there really is a speck (or even a plank). Reaching out to help your brother takes courage. Because if you really do love someone, you don’t want to hurt them. But if you love them, then you also don’t want to see them continue down paths that are destructive. You want to help them thrive, see clearly, and be the best that they can be.
I suppose it comes down to loving, making sure you’re working on yourself, being honest and vulnerable about the planks you’ve had to wrestle, and waiting for the right time to have a heart to heart with you brother.
Or said another way: Keep your glasses clean. Wash your face and keep your eyes clear. But also love your brother enough to say, “Hey man, you’ve got something on your eye. Does that sting? Can I help?”
And speaking just for myself here, I'm thankful to have people looking out for me. I would rather have someone offer to help me with a speck that isn’t there, than to be left suffering in watery stingy discomfort. As long as they come at me with eye drops, not acid. You know what I’m saying?