In Luke gospel Jesus says, “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” (Lk 6:41-42)
Jesus often used exaggeration to make a serious point. Of course it’s impossible to have a log in our eyes. However, if we don’t deal with our own demons, we will be in serious trouble.
Fr. Richard Rohr, in his book, Job and the Mystery of Suffering, writes: “We all have some evil within ourselves. We all have roots of violence within us. Until we take responsibility for that, we will continue to need victims and continue to create victims.”
Christ calls us, Christians, to lead others. If we are to lead by word and example, we must not be hypocrites. If we are to criticize the evil in the world, we must first look with a critical eye on ourselves. If we are to offer a solid witness to Jesus, we must have a firm foundation.
Our deepest emotions come from the depths of our hearts – love and hate, generosity and selfishness, honesty plus deceit. Before we dare to criticize others, we must first look to see if the things in us that we hate the most, are what we project on others. In some strange way it makes us feel superior to see evil in others. It’s easier to condemn others than to look within ourselves first.
So often our criticism stems from jealousy, even unconsciously. How do we know what we would have done if we were in someone else’s shoes? We put others down to build ourselves up, to appear better than they are. We should criticize evil. Yet, unless we first admit our own frailty and capability of error, then we are wrong in trying to correct others.
If hatred exists in us, we merely continue the process of hatred, envy and jealousy in the world. If we nurture these feelings, they flourish not only in us, but in others. The only way to stop anger, hatred, and chaos is to confront them within us first. For peace to begin with me, means simply that hatred, jealousy, envy, bigotry, and self-glorification must first be eradicated from my heart. Then, we can be instruments of God’s love. Our hearts will beat with God’s.
Carl Jung, the late psychologist, speaks of our “shadow side,” those things about us that do not appear on the surface but lurk deep within. To deny the fact that we all have a dark side is foolishness because by recognizing our darker feelings, we can gain control of them. If we do not, one day our repressed feelings will shoot to the surface and we will find ourselves doing and saying things that may even shock us.
We can be generous, but we can also be very selfish. We may be pure of heart, but we can do unmentionable things. We may be kind, but we can also be very cruel. We look terrified at ourselves at such times and realize that our shadow side has suddenly taken control, unsolicited.
As humans, we have the tendency to project our greatest failings upon others. As Jung says, if you are conscious of greed in someone, look within first, for greed lurks there. Whatever failings we see in others can well be the very feelings we repress, instead of recognizing and controlling them.
This Lent is a great time to look at our shadow side. We pray that we may not fall into that pit of self-righteousness and superiority that so easily turn people away from the faith we profess to believe and practice.