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Joseph G Langen

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Stop by Sliding Otter News for wise quotes, inspirational reflections on life's joys and challenges and what to do about them.
Newsletter Dated: 2/1/2009 10:01:37 AM

Subject: Perfection and the Beam in Your Eye

Perfection: The Beam in Your Eye 1/31/09

Why do you see the speck in your brother's eye
but fail to see the beam in your own eye?
Matthew 7:3

After the initial enthusiasm for President Obama's inauguration, I noticed that many columnists and letter writers quickly turned to looking for his weak spots. What are the president's shortcomings and what weaknesses might he show?
People argue over whether the bible should be taken literally or should be seen as a collection of teaching stories. I always thought the above quote presented a rather humorous picture while at the same time making a good point. I imagine myself going around with a log sticking out of my eye. It's easy to look beyond our own glaring deficits and see others' imperfections.
Have you ever trapped an eyelash or spot of dust in your eye? When this happens to me, the discomfort demands all my attention, blotting out everything else. I can't think of anything else until it is gone. As upset as we get about such a relatively minor annoyance, how much more upset do we become when we see others' imperfections?
The bible passage raises a good point. Why is it so much easier for us to see small imperfections in others than it is to see what's wrong with us? When psychologists ponder this question, their most common explanation is that finding fault with others helps us feel better about ourselves. At least we don't have their particular deficiency. We congratulate ourselves on our accomplishments or at least don't feel so bad about our failings.
Though we might feel better, we usually continue to act in ways which emphasize our limitations. If we concentrate on what everyone else does wrong, nothing will ever change. We might be successful in making each other feel bad but we will keep on acting out our weaknesses.
What are we trying to hide from ourselves? Perhaps we have the same faults we complain about in others. Maybe focusing on others’ failings creates a smokescreen, deflecting attention from us. Very convenient but not very useful or productive. So how do we change course? One way would be to stop our usual criticism and ask ourselves why we are finding fault with others.
It's easier to be critical than constructive. Instead of sitting back and pointing fingers, we would need to find a way to improve life for everyone. Not that we can change the world in a single day our through our own actions. Of course we can't. But we can tip the balance, if only a tiny bit, toward a more peaceful, loving world community. You don't think you are that powerful? Why not give it a try?

Life Lab Lessons

•If you are tempted to be critical of someone, look at yourself.
•Are you guilty of the trait you are criticizing in others?
•Are you perfect?
•I thought not. What can you change to make yourself easier to live with?
•Rather than casting a stone, consider what you can build with it.

Writing News:

•My new book, Navigating Life: Commonsense Reflections for the Voyage is available from
•My blog Conversations with Calliope, an ongoing dialogue about the writing life, appears most days at
•I have been reading about marketing and website development. If you are interested, you might like to read Seth Godin’s book, The Purple Cow, in which he presents the new rules for marketing.
•I found a wonderful discussion of aging, Joan Chittister’s book, The Gift of Years, in which she presents the benefits and challenges of aging in a positive light.

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2/1/2009 10:01:37 AM

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