Mirror Image

“We need to leave at 2:05, which means you need to stop what you’re doing at 2:00, gather your things, and put your shoes on,” I instructed before I headed out for much-needed alone time in the form of a walk.

At 2:04, one son emerged from the house and dutifully climbed into the van. As I stepped in the house to grab the keys, I heard the scrape of a chair and scramble for things. I slid into the van, pulled out of the driveway, and drove to drama club just as the second son emerged from the house with belongings strewn all over him, shoes in hand, and a harried look on his face. Son in the van was speechless. Fear of somehow being left behind, too, had clamped his mouth shut. I explained, “Your brother has a difficult time being ready on time for your drama club so in order for you to be on time, we had no choice but to leave him at home.” For weeks (maybe months), left behind son had dragged his feet when it was time to leave for drama club. I had had enough.

I dropped off son in the van and headed back to the house. Left behind son was presented with a choice. His art club started in 8 minutes. He could pay me for my time and gas to make a second trip to the church for him or he could pay me the cost of missing a day of club. He opted for the ride since it was half the price of a missed class.

On the way home (finally) from dropping both sons off, I wondered what bothered me so much about left behind son’s continual tardiness. Yes, it was inconsiderate to cause others to wait, but it seemed to be more than that. Then the thought smacked me in the face. How many times had my husband asked if we could leave at a certain time only to be left waiting in the car for me? Granted, I have strived over the past 19 years of marriage to get rid of this inconsiderate fault and succeeded … for the most part. I am on time or early 90% of the time, but the last 10% of the time that I still struggle to master drives me nuts! In that moment I realized something that has changed the way I interact with others. The character traits that annoy me the most about others are the very character traits I cannot stand about myself.

It is true that some behaviors are just plain annoying but might we consider our own behavior before condemning those around us to social pariah status?

One friend second-guesses everyone’s answers, thinking every person is quite possibly lying. Why this assumption? She was lied to most of her life, learned to protect herself with lies or half-truths, and assumes others must be doing the same.

Another friend thinks everyone is “out to get” him. Why? He was constantly manipulated as a child, learning to manipulate others for his own gain, then assuming the purpose behind anyone’s actions must be manipulation.

The Bible speaks to this in Matthew 7:1-4, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?”

These verses do not only refer to finding the same fault in others that we ourselves have. However, I am suggesting that this may be the basis for how annoyed we get with others. (I think the childhood taunt, “It takes one to know one,” started with this realization.) At any rate, when God opened my eyes to see that one of the reasons my son’s tardiness frustrated me so much was because I struggle with the same fault, it changed the way I deal with others. Now, when my eyes begin to narrow and my blood begins to boil at someone’s annoying fault, I turn the mirror on myself. Do I have the same annoying behavior? If not, do I have an equally irritating habit? I can assure you that it takes no time at all for a less than Christ-like character trait to flood my mind. It’s a lot easier to extend grace to others when I realize how much grace I need.

So before we point out the speck in someone else’s eye, let’s turn the mirror on ourselves and find the log in our own eye. Extending grace flows freely from a place of self-awareness.

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