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The Plank in Your Eye

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.

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