ONE OF MY favorite moments in a soccer game comes with the corner kick. Look closely, and you’ll see all the defenders backing into the position where they think they should be stationed. Then, they point with an air of authority to somewhere else in the penalty area that needs watching. The silent message: “I’m doing what’s right; it’s everyone else who needs to shape up!”
I must admit to having the same kind of tendency away from the pitch. It’s easier to pretend I’ve got it all together and that any problems are with everyone else. If only.
A friend nailed this inclination to deflection when we were chatting this week.
“Blame it rather than name it,” he said.
That’s uncomfortably good.
We’re not talking about turning a blind eye to another’s shortcomings, here. There’s a time and a place for addressing where someone else may be missing the mark, but that comes only after some healthy self-examination.
Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus didn’t tell us not to worry about the speck in someone else’s eye. He said that we could help them only after we have removed the log from our own. Only when our vision is clear can we see well enough to assist someone else.
The implication is that if we try to help someone else see better when our view is clouded, we’re not going to be successful. Rather than being clear-eyed and delicate enough to tease that speck away, we’re probably going to poke them in the eye and make things worse.
In other words, Jesus said that we need to turn a clear eye to others’ shortcomings.
Even if some difficulty in a relationship is overwhelmingly another person’s doing, chances are I have contributed to the situation somewhere along the line. Ultimately, I can change only my part in it all. Only then will I be in a position to even hope to offer any help to them. Not just because I see more clearly, but also because I hopefully have demonstrated some willingness to acknowledge my own shortcomings.
How do we know when we’re in this kind of healthy spot? Maybe when, faced with challenge or correction, instead of saying, “Yes, but…” we say, “But yes!” We look inward rather than pointing elsewhere. We name rather than blame.