Noticing a single shortcoming in ourselves is far more useful than seeing a thousand in someone else. When it is our own: we can correct it.
And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
-Jesus, Matthew 7:3-5
There is a certain danger is always seeking to help other people. Often their mistakes and flaws are seemingly obvious to us, yet we are blind to the problems in our own eyes. It is human nature to dwell on the flaws of others, whether out of an effort to disparage them or help them. As the Dalai Lama points out, noticing a thousand flaws in other is far less useful than noticing a single flaw within ourselves. Jesus tells us to remove the plank before we try to remove another person’s speck. We can’t make anyone change. We can only change ourselves. Certainly we can help make changes – after we can see clearly.
We always have control over our reaction to people. We cannot control what they do or think. It does us little good to react negatively to every flaw we see in others; such negative reaction is the one short coming we can correct.
We have the tendency to notice in others what we have issues with ourselves. When someone’s behavior angers us or causes us to “hate” them, we need to pause and see if we do the same thing. We are all hypocrites to one degree or another. Often we are the very thing we say to hate whether it is acting like a hipster, a jerk, a bitch, or any other label we attached to someone else. A plank in the eye distorts our ability to see other people as they are. It is a filter that sees only what it expects to see. For example, if a guy thinks all women are manipulators and bitches then he will see only the actions that fall under those labels. Planks distort our vision and make us see specks that aren’t there. We have to take care of our own thoughts before we can effectively help others. A dirty sponge cannot clean.
Speck seeing is a fast way to strain relationships. Not recognizing the filters we see other people through leads to co-dependence, control, and other unhealthy relationships. It makes us seek to “help” our friends or lovers when we should first clear our eyes. Everyone has planks that distort their vision. The key is to be open and take action when you finally notice them. Unrealistic labels and views of people are planks. Exaggerated views of situations are particularly troublesome.
Exaggerated views are flaws that distort the reality of a situation and make specks seem like planks. For example, a sink of dishes isn’t “filthy” or some cat hair on a couch “nasty.” It is just a few dishes and cat hair. He isn’t a “dick.” She isn’t a “bitch.” They are all just subjective exaggerations that we make. Exaggerations only cause us to grow anxious and fail to see the plank we are trying to see the world around. In this case the plank is a distorted, exaggerated view of reality. It is an effort to make hum-drum reality a drama.
Planks are often hard to see because they are so blinding. That is why it is so easy to see a thousand shortcomings in someone else than see just one in ourselves. However, we need to watch for our planks whenever we try to reach for someone’s speck. It could very well be our own flaws we are touching. Luckily, once we see the plank we can fix the problem.