What this means is, if you pick out something to criticize about another person, the chances are really good that you are guilty of that exact thing. For example, I bet most of us know someone who will say, “That Sally sure likes to gossip.” Which causes everyone else to stop short and think, “Um, really? Nobody gossips more than YOU!”
Very possibly this describes you or me. Maybe we’re the one who points out that Sally sure likes to gossip, right after we’ve spent the previous hour telling Sally all the juicy rumors we’ve heard about other people.
During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus pointed out this reality by asking, “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?”
Jesus was warning against hypocrisy; that is, seeing the sin in another person’s life while ignoring the obvious sin in our own life.
By the way, Jesus also was using imagery that was quite humorous. Having a wooden beam stuck in your eye is a very comical exaggeration. I mean, think about it. A wooden beam stuck in a person’s eye is definitely going to ruin the rest of his day. Huge tree branches impaled through one’s skull tend to do that. Then, when Jesus added to the exaggeration by describing the person as being oblivious to the wooden beam in his skull and focusing all his attention on a small speck in someone else’s eye, you can’t help but giggle at this memorable lesson. Jesus doesn’t get nearly enough credit for His use of humor in His teachings.
Jesus clearly says, “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you” (Matt. 6:14). When we forgive others, we are less likely to criticize them and point out their faults.
Next, Christianity helps us to understand that we are not exactly free from faults. When St. Paul wrote, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” he definitely meant “all,” as in all y’all.
Unlike what many people claim, Christianity does not cause believers to develop poor self esteem. Instead, it helps us see reality more clearly. And the reality of the situation is that we are sinful. When we understand that we are in need of forgiveness, and when we actively try to forgive others who sin against us, we are much less likely to be caught up in the “You spot it, you got it” hypocrisy.
So, be mindful of this concept that Fr. John mentioned on the radio. When you find yourself pointing out other people’s flaws, chances are you are doing the exact same things. This is because if “you spot it, you got it.”