Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.
I wish that I could draw caricatures, just to illustrate this verse. Can’t you just see it? A person is standing there with a huge log hanging out of his/her eye while trying to take a minuscule speck out of another’s eye. It’s a humorous word picture for sure. That is until you come so face to face with your own sin that you realize you have been walking around for years with your own big ole plank, hindering your sight, blinding you to your own sin.
But this is true of all of us. My husband wisely and simply says, “Sin makes you stupid.” This straightforward, pithy truth is one reason that we need the Word and other Christians. We need help to see ourselves accurately and clearly. But we also need to see ourselves and our sin with a Gospel lens. We are more needy, more sinful…than we could ever imagine. But God…
What got me thinking about this is a study through Hebrews. I was meditating on Jesus’s perfect life and thinking through what “perfect” really means. I like to define terms because I believe really familiar terms often lose their true meaning to us. After all, they become so familiar.
I know, biblically, that “perfect” carries the idea of complete, lacking nothing. Jesus being God, lacks nothing. He is entirely everything right. His perfect life, death, and resurrection show this. Death could not hold Him because of His completeness, His perfection.
For contrast, I sought definitions of perfect form popular and secular sources. I ran across this article about perfectionism. It was in Psychology Today. This article was something that I wouldn’t usually read, but because it was on the topic I was thinking about and would give a more cultural perspective, I read it. My reaction, I HAVE A HUGE LOG IN MY EYE! It was definitely eye-opening.
You see (pun intended), we have a couple of children who struggle with perfectionist tendencies. I see this struggle consistently in their lives. My problem was that I didn’t see it in my own life. I was like that fool, pictured in Jesus’s illustration, with an enormous log protruding from my eye, trying to remove the speck from my kids’ eyes.
This quote was the eye-opening section in the article for me:
“Perfectionists set unrealistically high expectations for themselves and others. They are quick to find fault and are overly critical of mistakes. They tend to procrastinate a project out of their fear of failure. They shrug off compliments and forget to celebrate their success. Instead, they look to specific people in their life for approval and validation.”
(Words italicized are reflective of my struggle.)
It was like looking in a mirror.
Later that night, I read this section to my husband, David. He literally laughed out loud. He’s been describing me with these same words (almost verbatim) in the italics above for years. I know he’s right; that wasn’t the shocker. The shocker was defining it as “perfectionism.” Something I could easily identify in others, but not in myself.
I needed (need) this clarity. And I was ready to receive this clarity (discipline, if you will) with some humility, only because I had already been meditating on the perfection of Christ. My heart had been softened, reminded of the Gospel, and then came the clarity, the discipline.
Of course, like all discipline, it’s “painful” in the moment. But for the believer, we have the promise of it producing “the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Heb 12:11)
This is where my battle begins. I’m thankful for the clarity. I’m thankful for the discipline. I’m thankful for the Gospel. I’m thankful for a Father who loves me. And I’m thankful for a love that will not leave me alone.
So how do I battle this perfectionistic way of thinking and acting?
First, with thanksgiving. Since I tend to be overly critical with myself and others, I have to remind myself that correction, discipline, is given by a Father who loves me. I have to remind myself that although my sin is foolish, it is covered by Christ’s wisdom. He is the perfect one. The clarity of my sin is to push me toward maturity. It is for my good, the glory of God, and the building up of His church. These are reasons for thanksgiving!
Second, now that I have identified my sin, I can see it more clearly in everyday life. I saw it just this morning. My response should be one of acknowledgment, ownership, and repentance to God and others.
Third, I need accountability. There needs to be someone praying with and for me about this. And also willing to call me out when it is required.
Last, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Since this is a sinful thought pattern, it will be a constant battle. My heart and mind need to be stayed in the Word of Christ. I need to keep going. When I fall, I need to get back up and press on. My end is sure. I am not alone.
Maybe you have some big ole plank hanging out of your eye? Let me encourage you, dear Christian; if you do, your Father will show it to you at the appropriate time. Stay in the Word. You will see yourself more clearly. Surround yourself in a solid Christian community where the Word is preached. Press on. You are covered.
It’s funny how the labeling of my sin was the thing it took to help me see it clearly. A good friend texted me today-“The Lord is good. And mysterious and humorous.” She is right. One thing I’ve learned is that I should laugh at myself a lot more and worry about people’s perceptions of me a lot less. Both create a better atmosphere for me to have genuine humility by reminding me not to think of myself more highly or lowly than I ought.
Feelings wax and wane, but God remains the same. He alone is unchanging, complete, perfect.
And, after all, I am not.