When assessing the purity of others, it is necessary to make certain that our own house is clean first. The Gospel of Matthew instructs us to take the plank out of our own eye first. Only then are we able to “see clearly to remove the speck” from another’s eye. In a similar vein, a colloquial tale goes something like this:
In a neighborhood, the woman of the household habitually comments to her husband about their neighbors’ state of affairs. As time goes by, she makes derogatory comments about the dirty windows of one neighbor and the less than clean laundry on the clothesline of another. Her critiques of the housekeeping skills of others are constant fare for her long-suffering mate. One day after washing her own windows, she finds out that the dirt she was seeing was her own, not that of her neighbors.
How often does rash judgment concerning others jump into our own minds? Do we clearly see our need to clean up our own lives? Alternatively, is the lens through which we see others, covered in grime? Unfortunately, we are often in need of a thorough housecleaning of our own. The reflection of our own shortcomings becomes a shadow on our neighbors.
Clean the Inside as Well as the Outside
Matthew 23:23-26 admonishes us:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and rapacity. You blind Pharisee! first cleanse the inside of the cup and of the plate, that the outside also may be clean.”
What we present to others is often not a true reflection of our inner selves. This is particularly easy to fall prey to with the popularity of social media. Like the Pharisees, we make certain that our outer image is pristine. The public face we put on is the best of who we hope to be. Think about the perfect lives portrayed on social media. Most people do not share their flaws or the discord in their own lives. Instead, the best side is presented: perfectly posed and adorable kids, the puppy peacefully napping, and a kitchen triumph. These are the views that are unhesitantly shared.
Contrast this to the inner secrets and grime, stealthily hidden from view. Perhaps we are not so squeaky clean after all. Unless we hope it goes viral we do not share our bed head hair, ever squabbling siblings, puppy puddles, or burnt toast. Those are not how we prefer to put forth our lives to the public.
While it is not necessary (or desirable) to fully bare our souls for public view, a virtuous habit to form would be to remain aware of our own weaknesses. In turn, this will allow us to understand those less than stellar moments of others. As Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”. In other words, our own judgment will be measured by the same stick with which we judge others.
Present a Purely Clean View to Others
If, as it has been said, our eyes are the windows of the soul, let our lens be transparent and pure. When someone looks into our faces, let the reflection of Christ’s love be there for them to see. As He has loved us, so let us love one another.
If we all make an effort to present ourselves honestly, the scales will fall off our eyes and we will be able to see ourselves more clearly. In turn, we will be more charitable about our view of others. We will all be seen as God sees us: His creatures, loved by Him – faults and all – yet always trying to do His will.