I’m Not Arrogant, I’m Just Better than You
When is the last time you had something in your eye? You know that little speck of dust blowing in the wind or that loose eyelash that just won’t leave you alone. It’s annoying, to be sure, but isn’t it interesting to note that Jesus knew exactly how that feels.
Walking along the dusty roads as he traveled from town to town there was probably many times that he had to stop… and get the little bit of junk out of his eye before continuing. It was probably during one of these little breaks that he made the connection between that ocular irritation and the sin that disturbs the peace of our daily lives.
Those little annoying habits of others that drive us crazy can be like the little specks that immobilize us. Once they are noticed they just won’t leave us alone. There is the guy at work that never washes out his coffee cup, and the family member who leaves a mouthful of juice in the bottom of the container before putting it back in the fridge. Small things to be sure, but like that speck they can drive us around the bend. We just want to grab that speck and make it be gone for good.
But then Jesus, as he so often does, gives us a pause for reflection. Why do the little specks of others bother us so much when our own misbehavior can stay so easily hidden? He says that it is as if we had a log in our own eye, but we fail to notice it.
Self-deception about our own faults is a commonly observed trait but it’s not well understood. Psychologists use a term called “Illusory Superiority” to describe how it is that we are quick to jump to judgment and criticism of others while at the same time rationalizing and justifying our own behaviors.
The Gospel’s invitation today is to seek personal insight and develop an accurate self-perception. It is not about trying to make ourselves feel guilty but rather trying to be really honest about what our gifts are and also what our limitations are. Understanding where we might fall short helps us to be forgiving of others and will help us to seek out and encourage the gifts of others. Understanding where our talents lie points to areas where we can truly contribute to the community.
This is what St. Paul is talking about in his letter to the Corinthians. Paul’s gift is in preaching and sharing the word of God. This does not make him superior to others. It is simply something that he finds that he is drawn to do and he is willing to offer it for the good of others even at great personal sacrifice.
Self-awareness is not a skill that is developed overnight. In the Gospel Jesus talks about the need for a good guide, a spiritual teacher, someone who will be honest with us and also be kind with us and help us to be kind with ourselves as we begin to dig deeper. But it is perhaps good to know that even acknowledging our need to be more self-aware is a wonderful beginning in itself.
Do you find yourself criticizing others more than you would like?
Does gossip play a large part in your social life?
Do you have a close friend or even a spiritual director who can be honest with you?