On a Mission

The Beam in Our Eyes

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

“Let us strive always to look at the virtues and good deeds we see in others and cover their defects with the thought of our own great sins.”

The wisdom in these words of St. Teresa of Avila never really hit home to me until recently when a former friend witnessed one of my famous Hungarian temper tantrums. It was sparked by someone who shirked their responsibilities and dumped a problem in my lap at a most inopportune moment. Mind you, even though there was no cursing or foul language involved, there’s no excuse for temper tantrums – even when we have good reason to blow our stack. But let’s face it – it happens.

As it turns out, this friend never forgot it. Every chance she got, it would be thrown in my face. “This isn’t the Sue I know” (which made me wonder how well she knew me), and “How you’ve changed!” (To the best of my knowledge, I’ve been Hungarian since the moment of conception.) The first time she reminded me of it, I experienced the typical reaction of remorse, shame, etc. However, when she reminded me again…and then again…it no longer pricked my conscience. It made me start to wonder about her. Why was this person, who was supposed to be so devout, behaving so…well…non-devoutly?

Not long after this, I came across a commentary on Luke 6:41 where Jesus asks, “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?”

Notice how He speaks about the “splinter” in the other person’s eye rather than the “beam” in our own? Why did He choose this particular language? Why was the other person’s fault just a “splinter,” and the eye of the beholder a “beam”?

As the commentary stated, Jesus pointed the finger at the fault-finder for his hypocrisy in attacking someone for what was a minor flaw compared to his own greater fault of passing judgement on that person! As the spiritual masters tell us, a sure sign that we’re full of pride is when we see every little fault in others, and almost never in ourselves. Sadly, this is also true of us so-called “devout” Catholics. We LOVE to blow the faults of other devout Catholics way out of proportion because it makes us feel like we’re holier than this supposedly holy person. It’s no wonder the commentary warns that the person who tends to behave in this way is more than likely suffering with pride much more than they realize.

Being on the receiving end of this kind of treatment, as foul as it was, taught me a valuable lesson. Number one, while we might be momentarily surprised by a moment of weakness in another, if we find ourselves unable to forget it, there’s more than likely a problem with ourselves rather than the other person. Number two, confront it and shut it down right away before it evolves into passing judgement on a person’s state of soul.

Instead, take the advice of St. Therese who said, “I understand now that charity consists in bearing with the faults of others, in not being surprised by their weakness, in being edified by the smallest acts of virtue we see them produce.”

Great advice! Now if only we would take it…


©Susan Brinkmann. All Rights Reserved

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