“‘Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?'” – Matthew 7:3
I was a righteous child. I knew I was going to grow up and rid the world of injustice. Which is probably why I didn’t have a lot of friends as a kid.
When I first saw the movie, “Scent of a Woman,”I was blown away by Al Pacino’s legendary performance as the blind, and (spoiler alert) suicidal Lt. Col. Frank Slade. But one thing really bothered me: why wouldn’t Charlie (Chris O’Donnell) rat out those other boys? If you haven’t seen the movie, some of the boys at Charlie’s prep school had vandalized the Headmaster’s car. Charlie saw what happened and who did it, but he wouldn’t tell on them. Charlie was not exactly a friend of the perpetrators—in fact, they kind of bullied him. He really had no reason to protect them. In my mind, spilling the beans was the ethical thing to do. Pacino’s epic speech at the end inspires us all to protect Charlie’s silence, and who am I to argue with Al Pacino? But I always came away scratching my head, wondering why the story went that way.
Being the righteous kid, I never understood why tattling was frowned upon. After all, shouldn’t we hold each other accountable for bad behavior? (Like I said, I didn’t have many friends.)
When I finally came across this scripture from Matthew 7, suddenly it made sense. It’s easy to point out the faults in others, but we are not so good about acknowledging our own imperfections. Charlie could’ve told the Headmaster what he saw and who did it, but I think he understood the danger of pointing fingers at others, and that a battle of finger-pointing is an exhausting and ultimately fruitless endeavor.
I’m now a righteous adult. I still want to rid the world of injustice. But now I realize that the best way to start this work is to look in the mirror and pull the logs out of my own eyes first. It’s harder to do that, and more painful. But I have been able to see things in new ways, and for that, I’m grateful. (Maybe it’s also part of why I seem to have more friends now.)
Holy One, give us the courage and strong arms we need to pull those logs out of our eyes. Then let us use our new vision to build your realm of justice and love. Amen.
Mark Winters is the Pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ, Naperville, Illinois.