We always want to find someone else to blame for our screw-ups. It’s just part of who we are. It’s uncomfortable to admit that we’ve done wrong; it’s embarrassing when people find out that we made a mistake. So we try to find someone or something else that can take the weight of our guilt.
One of the more public examples of this is the recent “advice” that Pat Robertson gave to a woman whose husband had cheated on her. His advice to her was that, since men have a tendency to wander, she had to make home so attractive that he wouldn’t cheat again. Clearly, from his point of view, men are mindless brutes, driven by nothing more than their sexual impulses, making women the culprits for infidelity. “It’s not our fault!” Never mind the fact that Jesus fought against this very ideology, teaching that the guilt for even the lustful look lies in the man (or woman) who is doing the looking and not in the object of their fantasy.
These evasion tactics, however, happen everyday in less public venues. How many times have we said, “I’m only human!”? How many times, when in conflict with someone else, have we only thought about what the other person has done to us? We are so apt at placing the blame outside of ourselves that at times we begin to believe in our complete and utter innocence. The other person is wrong, and I’m the blameless victim of their insidious ways.
This is something that we have to get a hold on. I’ve seen too many relationships strained and broken due to our inability to do a self-evaluation, and to honestly ask if we share part of the blame.
One of Jesus’ most pertinent teachings to this problem comes from the Gospel according to Matthew. Sadly it is also one of the most misunderstood.
Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 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, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is 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.
Too many use these verses to declare, “No one should judge me for what I’ve done!” when in truth it is their own guilty conscience that is doing the judging. Other’s always object that we must judge our brothers. “Are we not to care for the testimony of the church? What about church discipline?”
Both of these understandings miss the point altogether. Jesus isn’t saying that we can be comfortable in our sin because no one can judge us, nor is he saying that our churches should be anything-goes havens for those in sin. What Jesus is saying is that we must look at ourselves first. We are priority number one when it comes to matters of sin. We must ask how we have done wrong and how we can make it right. The primary reason for this is that our own vision will always be distorted if we do not take care of the sin that inhabits our own being.
When we sin our own judgment becomes distorted. We begin to pass the blame to others, or we begin to see other’s sinfulness as much worse than our own. Many times this is because we are, perhaps subconsciously, attempting to minimize our own guilt. The log in our eye distorts our vision so much that we can no longer see clearly. Everything we look at becomes distorted, and our judgment becomes misguided.
We must deal with our own mistakes first; then we will be able to relate freely and honestly with our fellow Christians. Because if we take seriously our own fragility we will be more humble, more understanding in our dealings with others. Then the church can become a place of acceptance, mutuality, and communion.