Skip to main content
Center for Action and Contemplation

The Plank in Your Eye

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Embracing the Shadow

The Plank in Your Eye
Thursday, July 14, 2016

Jesus’ phrase for the denied shadow is “the log in your own eye,” which you instead notice as the “splinter in your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5). Jesus preceded modern psychology’s shadow work by two thousand years. His advice is absolutely perfect: “Take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye” (7:5). Jesus does not deny that we should deal with evil, but we’d better do our own housecleaning first. If you do not recognize and name your own “log,” it is inevitable that you will project and hate it elsewhere. In political campaigns, hateful candidates invariably accuse others of being hateful, and angrily attack others for being angry. People with little self-knowledge usually do not see this clear pattern, but instead join with them in their attacks.

Jesus’ genius is that he wastes no time on repressing or denying the shadow. In that, he is a classic prophet; he does not merely expose the shadow, but attacks the real problem, which is the ego and the arrogance of people misusing power. Once you expose the shadow for what it is, its game is over. Its effectiveness entirely depends on costume and pretense. The true seer knows that “the angels of darkness must disguise themselves as angels of light” (see 2 Corinthians 11:14). As C. S. Lewis taught, if the devil were to succeed in England, he would need to wear a three-piece suit and speak with the Queen’s English, and surely never appear as a red demon with horns and a pitchfork. It is the same today.

Power, perks, prestige symbols, and material possessions are the normal armor of the ego. These are Jesus’ clear moral concerns, rather than merely sexual rules, roles, and supposed purity codes. Jesus shows little interest in phony moral purity, which actually increases repression of shadow issues. Watch out for it, as it takes many disguises.

Immature religion creates a high degree of “cognitively rigid” people, utterly dualistic thinkers, and often very hateful and crusading people, invariably about a single issue where they focus all their anger. “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52) takes on a whole new meaning here.

Gateway to Silence:
Help me see as You see.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 76-77.

Navigate by Date

This year’s theme

The Prophetic Path

It can be easier to turn away from suffering than face it with an open heart. That’s why our 2023 Daily Meditations theme, The Prophetic Path, empowers us to not avoid or fear the pain of the world, but turn toward it with compassion.

The archives

Explore the Daily Meditations

Explore past meditations and annual themes by browsing the Daily Meditations archive. Explore by topic or use the search bar to find wisdom from specific teachers.

Join our email community

Sign-up to receive the Daily Meditations, featuring reflections on the wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative tradition.

Hidden Fields

Find out about upcoming courses, registration dates, and new online courses.
Our theme this year is Nothing Stands Alone. What could happen if we embraced the idea of God as relationship—with ourselves, each other, and the world? Meditations are emailed every day of the week, including the Weekly Summary on Saturday. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.
In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.