“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” – Matthew 7:3
Many decades ago there was a syndicated comic strip that appeared in newspapers across the country called Pogo that featured animal characters, the title character being Pogo, an opossum. The comic strip’s messages were written as satires about the human condition, as comic strips often are, the most famous one featuring Pogo reflecting philosophically with one of his animated friends, “We have met the enemy,” he said, “and it is us.”
Back in my mid-thirties I was a rising young executive. I had just received a big promotion, and I thought I had become a real big shot. One day on my way home I stopped by a supermarket to pick up a handful of items. My head was so big, I failed to notice that the checkout lane where I placed my items on the conveyor had just closed and the clerk was going off duty. But I was important, you see, and the lady should have recognized that, me all dressed up in a Brooks Brothers suit and fancy tie whose time was much more valuable than hers. So, I let her have it, and even though she tried to explain and apologize, I stomped away leaving that poor sweet lady in tears. Later that night as I was getting ready for bed I glanced in the mirror. There I saw the real enemy, and it was me. I felt so ashamed. If only I could go back and apologize, somehow make it right.
There were so many things wrong about my behavior in the grocery store that day, and among them was the fact that I wanted someone else to blame besides myself. So, that poor innocent lady behind the counter became the unfortunate victim of my wrath. She was not the enemy, of course, and neither was the store manager, nor the store’s policies. The real enemy was me. I alone am responsible for the shame I have carried all these years over that incident.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Jesus asked. There are a multitude of reasons why we do this. For me I find it less painful to blame someone else than to admit something is my fault, that there is a big plank in my own eye. If it is less painful, though, then why has the guilt and shame I have felt from that grocery store incident almost forty years ago not gone away? For, too often the enemy we meet is not someone else, it is us.