The other day I found a speck in my eye. I wasn’t sure where it came from, but it was a red speck, the kind you get from reading too much or squinting at the opera. I haven’t been to the opera in a while, so I ruled that out. I read a lot, so I thought it must be from that. Then again, I also stayed up late watching a YouTube video about the secret life of Hitler’s driver, so it could have been from that.
I discovered the speck in my right eye in the morning and then forgot about it, going about my business for the rest of the day. When I got to the office, however, an admin brought it to my attention. She thought maybe I hadn’t seen it. I told her I had. She waited for an explanation. I didn’t have one. A second admin did the same thing, then the UPS delivery guy, and, finally, a student.
I dashed to the Men’s Room, but nothing had changed. It hadn’t spread, turned black, or blinded me. It wasn’t exactly something to turn away from in horror. I didn’t understand the concern. Did they think it was pink eye, a highly contagious bacterial infection? But my eyeball did not look infected, nor did I feel that grinding, sandpaper pressure from conjunctivitis. I felt normal except for the red speck. I didn’t see myself differently, but apparently other people did.
As they say at the kennel, this gave me pause. How other people saw me differed from the way I saw me. Nothing new there, but it surprised me that something as simple as a red dot sitting off the iris the way the moon sits off the Earth could change people’s perspective of me. And we’re not even talking to scale; that is, the red dot off my iris was smaller proportionally than the moon is to the Earth. Still, it was either different or unexpected enough for people to notice.
I have written before about how zebras hide from predators not by blending into the environment but by blending into each other. To a hunting lion, a herd of zebras must look like a confusing whir of stripes and dust. But if any of the zebras has a defect, even a small one like a limp or discoloration, the lion can focus on that lone zebra and pounce for the attack. The lesson for zebras and the rest of us is not to stand out, at least not on the plains of the Serengeti. Or a subway platform.
Matthew’s Gospel takes this a step further and admonishes us not just to overlook the speck in our neighbor’s eye but not to judge it. “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?” (Mt 7.3). I can just imagine what would have happened had I shown up at the office with a plank in my eye instead of a speck.
Strangely, as much as we rely on sight to make judgments about ourselves and the world around us, sight can obstruct insight. In John’s Gospel, for instance, Jesus exhorts an angry crowd that he believes is about to kill him to “Stop judging by appearances, but judge justly” (Jn 7.24), by which he means with the eyes of God rather than the mob.
Why is this important? Because today is the Feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit blew through the Upper Room “like a strong driving wind” and rested upon the disciples in “tongues as of fire” (Acts 2.2-3). Just before this, the resurrected Jesus appeared to the disciples in the same room so that Thomas, who insisted on seeing Jesus with his own eyes, could believe in the messiah (Jn 20.24-28). But then Jesus told him, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jn 20.29b).
We cannot, then, believe everything we see. Nor can we believe everything others see. My red speck is proof of this. I don’t know what other people saw that day. Who knows? Maybe they thought they were helping. But wouldn’t it be better to heed Jesus’ advice and learn to judge justly? Or maybe not at all?
Image credits: feature by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash. Middle by Christopher Lemercier on Unsplash. Bottom by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay. Want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance.
Wow! Robert, there was a lot to think about in this post. Thank you for giving me some thoughts to put into my pocket; thoughts that call for “mulling over” in my daily round. Specks and motes, red dots and beams. I guess that I was glad to hear that various persons took a minute to notice a detail or small happening in the life or eye of another human being:). Despite continuous mental conversations and the importance of running through our days, some people took the time to look at you, Robert, and ask, “Ok?” The words of Jesus took me in another direction, but it seems good for people to notice each other and say, “You good?”
Actually, I didn’t mind it at all. Besides, it gave me something to write (complain) about…
Actually, I was reminding myself in my words to you-so I was talking about my own speck, mote, dot or beam:). Sometimes, I need to keep in mind that each person telling me their trauma is telling an essential part of my own story I may not wish to hear. Anyway-I won a case last week!!! A difficult one, in which a father of many children and many court appearances was up for final removal. I had worked with this family for 3 years-multiple court reports and appearances telephonically. The judge said that my final report and testimony informed her decision. Not a lot of successes in my work, and lots of heartbreaking stories, but that case made it worthwhile.
Congratulations, felicidades. auguri on the court case! I know how difficult they can be, and a victory like that is wonderful. I used to be involved, indirectly, in Family Court cases from the defendants’ position. You deserve a glass of wine (or stronger!).
Remember Beenie and Cecil. Remember the hat thar Beenie wore and there was a marketing craze in certain circles as a statement of political frivolence? Scripture often has to be considered in context. Whose narrating, the time, the climate and culture.
Many moons ago the hat that Beenie wore was chic, cute, and witty! It reflected the Social tolerance at the time….therefore the speck was sporty and intelligent.
If Cardinal Dolan, Kim Jon,Yung , Andrew Cuomo, or Wladimir Putin. wore something like that publicly nowadays, it may be viewed in a completely differerent light?
But I do appreciate what the writer of The Gospel in carrying what the message Jesus was saying. “What you Bind on Earth you Bind in Heavan….What you loose on Earth you let loose in Heavan. Thankyou Robert for another profound morsel to chew.
I remember that quote from Matthew as involving a mote and a beam – need to check my translation!
It surprises me that everyone would comment on your eye – I think the term for that is ‘rude’.
Does it look like it might be a burst blood vessel? They are not painful and don’t harm you, but are less than aesthetically pleasing.
BTW, for about the last month I don’t get comments emailed to me when I check the box. Am I the only one you know of being shunned by your blog??
You caught me. I used the NIV translation, because it says “speck” and not “mote,” which would have been harder to understand. About the email, I probably did something. I’ll check it out. Keep monitoring it. Happy Pentecost.