The Dust and the Log

by | Oct 27, 2017

An ancient scroll tells the story of a teacher who sat on a hill, sharing wisdom for a crowd of people who followed him to the mount. The writer of this brief was only the recorder, not the speaker. The speaker himself has never written, and has only been written of. The passage tells people to stop looking at the “mote” or speck of dust in the eyes of others (like the dust that floats in the air) without first considering that in our own eyes may be a beam of wood. It was not the text of antiquity itself that most profoundly captured my interest in the oft-told parable; instead, the commentary by Talmage.


“Men are prone to judge their fellows and praise or censure without due consideration of fact or circumstance. On prejudiced or unsupportive judgement the [man of wisdom] set his disapproval. He admonished [that] according to one’s own standard of judging others, shall he himself be judged. The man who is always ready to correct [another’s] faults, to remove the [dust] from his neighbor’s eye so that the neighbor may see things as the interested and interfering friend would have him see, was denounced as a hypocrite.


“What was the speck in his neighbor’s vision to the obscuring beam in his own eye? Have the centuries [since] made us less eager to cure the defective vision of those who cannot or will not assume our point of view, and see things as we see them?


I don’t think they have.

In psychological terms, we speak of ‘projection’: the defensive assignment to others the unacceptable flaws we cannot deal with in ourselves. I am overweight and criticize someone’s food choices. I am secretly addicted to a substance or behavior, and incorrectly assume others are doing the same vile things. I believe someone to be unjust, when it is I who is discriminatory and prejudicial. It is a concept literally learned in Psychology 101 and is not understanding meant only for behavioral scientists. Think of a PowerPoint projector. That’s what we are doing so often when we judge people, from a distance we cast our own colors onto whatever or whomever lies in our path. What are you projecting, and on to whom? What are you not acknowledging in yourself that you point out in fury about others?

In my work with people, almost everyone, there is a measure of blaming in nearly every story. I can admit I do this, too. But as a third-party observer-slash-participant in a counseling environment, there is no shortage of opportunity to see this lack of self awareness in people seeking help for their relational problems.

My suggestion echoes the master instructor of old: stop trying to regulate others; first, get yourself aligned with what is good and true and correct. Take the telephone pole out of your own eye before brooding with the speck of dust you see in another’s. Second, seek forgiveness for your own unkind judgement and do everything possible to make amends.

Though I write here my thoughts regarding a spiritual text, what is so telling of the importance of this truth is that it is reflected everywhere in today’s  culture. From Ice Cube to Metallica…we hear that we should “check yo self” and “judge not, lest ye be judged yourselves.”

“Forgiveness is too precious a pearl to be cast at the feet of the unforgiving.”

–James E. Talmage



Talmage, J. E. (1963). Jesus the Christ: A study of the Messiah and His mission according to Holy Scriptures both ancient and modern. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co.

Metallica. (1991). Holier Than Thou [CD]. Elektra Records.

Ice Cube. (2001). Check Yo Self. Priority Records.


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