When the Splinter in Your Eye is Really a Beam

“Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)

Carl Bloch, “The Sermon on the Mount”, 1877
Carl Bloch, “The Sermon on the Mount”, 1877 (photo: Public Domain)

Jesus’ famous splinter vs. log (or beam) comparison is a wonderful example of Christ bluntly calling out the hypocrisy in all of us. It three major components: first, He tells people to be aware of their judgments of others — and that such judgments will turn against judgers. Second, he asks how people can see others’ small flaws — but not their own major ones. And, lastly, he asks how his listeners can judge others without examining themselves first.

I’ve recently become quite aware of how far I have to go before the beams in my eye are removed, and in reflecting upon my errors I remembered what was probably the first time I was made aware of the beam.


In the eyes of a child

When I was 15 years old, New Hampshire was pounded by an ice storm and feet of snow. I was quite happy, in part because I spent a number of days over the next few weeks making good money helping my father shovel roofs.

It was on one such roof that I was gossiping to my father about a classmate who used marijuana and drank alcohol. Dad cut me off, telling me to stop gossiping. I was perplexed; this guy was doing things my father had raised me not to! I thought Dad would be right there with me on this one.

My father then explained: “Dustin, while you’re watching the Simpsons every day, X is out there becoming the best goalie in Class S soccer.”

When I protested that this guy was doing things Dad said I shouldn’t, more explanation came: “How do you know X’s father didn’t tell him he was a man at 13, and gave him a beer?” Essentially, I was being told that I was looking down on my classmate instead of focusing on improving myself.


The beam’s still there

Fast forward 18 years. Someone to whom I’m very close is a wonderful example of both a person and a Catholic convert. This person does, however, sometimes struggle with the discipline of attending Mass every Sunday.

I’ve been glad to help this person to get back on track, both for their sake and for those for whom this person is an example. I’ve often been gently encouraging — but sometimes, I’ve been the cynical judge who assumes the worst about the person’s discipline.

The splinter of this person occasionally missing Mass was brought to home as a I recently let loose against God with a lot of anger because my wife and I — endeavoring to care for our daughter, who is only now coming out of the “not-sleeping” phase of infancy — were and are doing our best to care for each other and our daughter, and God didn’t seem to see fit to help us out with sleep or rest or the fact that an infant’s crying drives nails through my head.

In other words: The anonymous convert misses Mass sometimes. Despite facing far greater challenges than me, I don’t think this person has ever gotten so angry at God as I have over losing sleep. It’s easy for me to forget that with the beams in my eye.

In Advent, we await the coming of Jesus at Christmastime.

What Is Advent Anyway?

EXPLAINER: Advent is a season in the Church’s life intended to renew the experience of waiting and longing for the Messiah.