Have you ever wondered where many of the Aphorisms we use today originated?
When you look through the annals of history, you will see that there truly is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). The pot calling the kettle black is the common theme in society. Yet, this same message is manifested clearly in the New Testament, too: "Do not judge, so that you will not be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. For in the way you judge, you will be judged. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:1-3).
The plank and the dust. This reflects a vital life principle. The idea of not looking at other people with the critical eye of judgement, but of instead admitting one's own faults, is something I think about daily. I see the great importance of holding to this principle. Even if I am constantly falling short.
There is where religiosity fries my brain. I have heard it said by "devout" Christians that the above principle only applies to believers and that we have the right to judge nonbelievers. I have also heard it argued that we still have the right to judge others regardless of what the passage clearly states. All of this from folks who claim to really understand the Bible and its teaching. It should be obvious here that don't agree with them.
There is not a single human being on this whole planet that can claim perfection. Period.
When you get to a place in your journey where life itself becomes sacred, you start to view things from a different perspective. In my time, I have seen so many things misconstrued by first appearances, that that old aphorism "pot calling the kettle black" has become plainly true to me.
A person can experience this too, but only by taking the time to look deeply into any given situation. This is typically a bit more in-depth than many people care to get.
Here is a powerful example of what I'm talking about:
It was early on a Saturday morning. I was sitting with a man named Jeffery. Jeffery was homeless. He claimed to be a civil war soldier who was looking for his campmates. He said that they were somewhere around 27th Ave and Thomas.
On the outside, Jeffery looked dirty and disheveled. On the inside, was a wounded man. One might've easily guessed that drugs had done this to Jeffery. The reality was that Jeffery had served his country. But in Vietnam. Trauma sustained during that time had ruined his life. I can guarantee that Jeffery was judged daily. But every passerby. He was just another homeless man. A drug addict. Crazy. But he wasn't any of those things. He was just a suffering man.
Yes, was. Jeffery has since passed. But, this account alone does not even begin to get deep down into the complexity of pots and kettles.
When this next example happened, it hit me like hammer.
The whole thing happened when I was volunteering at a local men's shelter. I'd just finished sharing my story and sharing the hope that I have experienced in Christ after surviving my brain tumor. A young man, probably about 19-years-old, approached me. He asked me if God loved him and if God could love the disgusting human that he was. This young man's name, was Michael.
Michael identifies as gay. He had become homeless after a life of foster system rejection. Once, he was taken in off the streets at 17 by a homosexual man who showed him distorted sort of affection. During this season, Michael was molested and came to develop a twisted connection between the feeling of love and being raped. It was the only affection he had felt, even though the act was horrible.
But, Michael was a sweet young man. A child of God.
Yet, I have seen it time and time again. People, especially Christians, judging people like Michael. Condemning them with their doctrinal anger. But, I guarantee when God looks at Michael, his heart breaks. He sees the whole story. He sees His child.
The reality is, we need to learn how to practice grace with how we perceive people. If we don't, we end up missing the whole person. We end up looking like idiots. We need to take the time, both to address the plank in our eyes, and to understand the painful complexity of circumstances before we try to correct others.
So, when is it okay to be critical?
Is it okay to be critical? Of course.
But, we need to know the "why" of a situation before we open our big mouths. We also need to be sincere. If we are going to take the time to correct, we need to look hard at ourselves and check our motivation for trying to correct another person. If our heart is to help someone improve, and we can honestly look in the mirror and face our intentions, we should go for it. Unfortunately, there is nothing easier than avoiding the proverbial mirror. If we can't handle the mirror, we should probably keep our traps shut.
Even when poor behavior is displayed, remember there is always a root to problems. When you dig deep into the historical roots of these people's lives, you will probably find a reason to grieve.
Time in this life is limited. If you spend it in the quest to become loving and wise, to reflect the example set before you by your Maker, I believe your mental health will be at a more peaceful place.
Just remember, pull the plank out of your own eye before you start judging those little specs in the eyes of others. Then, maybe ask yourself what the kettle you are looking at is really reflecting.