Spending hours on a freeway in a hot, barely moving car was an inevitable part of every work day for me when I lived in California. I just hated my commute. Too often, adding to my exacerbation, cars would speed by where there was no lane, squeezing between stopped cars in the ‘fast’ lane and the Jersey barrier. This incredibly dangerous and stupid behavior drove me nuts. I cursed these idiots and hoped that they would get hurt or at least, a ticket for breaking the law so egregiously. I always rushed to judge these drivers in the harshest manner.
Meanwhile, other drivers often wagged their fingers at me because, while sitting dead still in these traffic jams, I sometimes passed the time by painting my nails or reading, only occasionally glancing up. I was appalled that they would judge my driving!
One afternoon, when I noticed two people in one of these speeding cars, a question popped into my head: ‘What if she is in labor and he is racing to get her to the hospital’? My world shifted. I decided that although this was probably not true of these scofflaws, I would hereafter assume that they had a genuine emergency and just wish them the best. To this day, I still think that maybe babies are being born in recklessly speeding cars.
I realized that while I could not change the behavior of others, I could change myself and how I responded to them. I could move from judgment to compassion.
Jesus tells us: “Do not judge so that you won’t be judged. You’ll receive the same judgment you give. Why do you see the splinter that is in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite! First take the log out of your own eye, then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5
Put simply: clean up your own act before you judge others. When you are PERFECT, then go ahead and throw stones. Driving with a book balanced on the steering wheel was the log in my eye as was my rush to judge others.
Looking for the best in others is a way of cultivating forbearance and forgiveness in ourselves. We could even reach for the stars and try to follow Mother Theresa’s example when she said of the lepers and orphans on the streets of Calcutta that to her, “Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.”
We can look about us at others here on the Harbor with harsh judgement or with compassion and love. Since we don’t really know anyone’s story, let’s go ahead and assume the best of them. Let’s look for Jesus in others. In this logging community we should excel at taking the logs out of our own eyes so that we can see clearly to lovingly take the speck out of our brother’s eye!
Corby Varness is a lay preacher at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Montesano.