Once in a blue moon, I end up in regular, close proximity to someone with a unique combination of characteristics which painfully grate on my nerves. Sometimes, these are people with whom I do my best to keep a distance; but other times, these are friends or family whom I welcome into my life with open arms, but clenched fists.
In his book, My Utmost for His Highest, preacher and author Oswald Chambers says,
There is no getting away from the penetration of Jesus. If I see the [speck] in your eye, it means I have a [plank] in my own. Every wrong thing that I see in you, God locates in me. Every time I judge, I condemn myself (see Romans 2:17-20).
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve loathed someone else’s weaknesses, which I’m able to describe in vivid, cutting detail; but then Chambers’ words come back to haunt me, staring me in the face, grabbing a hold of the plank in my eye, and shaking it furiously. “Every wrong thing that you see in other people, God locates in you.” It’s a little embarrassing to realize that the things which so deeply irritate me about others are the very things that probably irritate others about me. Yet for some reason, my own worst weaknesses, when exhibited by others, are the ones I tend to judge most harshly.
When I meet someone who grates on my nerves in some significant way, I’m at the point now where I’m actually getting in the habit of realizing that I’m seeing something about myself that I don’t like. On my best days, I’m grateful for these people. They provide a more realistic estimation of myself, whether I want to admit it or not, and hurling stones at them therefore seems fairly hypocritical.
But admitting that we have the same weaknesses that we loathe in others isn’t just humbling – it’s humiliating. The way I see it, though, is that we’ve only got a couple of options: (1) we can keep hypocritically begrudging people when we’re guilty of the same offenses they’ve committed; or (2) we can be brave enough to use our experiences with folks like these as an opportunity to look our own ugliness in the face and take it to the cross. There, we will find the kindness to see the God-given beauty – not only in ourselves – but in the other person as well. We’ll also be a lot more likely to have the courage to drop those stones we want to throw and give the same pass for other people’s weaknesses that we regularly give our own.