Sometimes as we search for reconciliation we are so focused on the problems and defects in the other person’s behavior, that we fail to see how our own actions destroy communication and the opportunity for peace. This is an old problem in human relationship. We rush to judgement, we point the finger, and we have difficulty seeing ourselves as others see us.

In the King James Version of the Christian Bible Matthew 7:5 is stated “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” If “mote” is not familiar then one can use synonyms like “plank, log, beam, speck, splinter, chip, or piece of sawdust”. The intent of these words is not to suspend any judgement at all about wrong doing, nor is it condemning mutual aid and assistance to others to correct failure, rather it is to acknowledge that hypocrisy and self-righteousness may endanger any progress toward understanding and peace.

Robert Burns made an even more dramatic contribution to this theme in his poem “To a Louse, On Seeing One on a Lady’s Bonnet at Church” written in 1786 in his favorite Scots dialect of standard six-line Scottish Habbie. In the final verse one finds:

Burns original

O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion!

Standard English translation

And would some Power give us the gift
To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us,
And foolish notion:
What airs in dress and gait would leave us,
And even devotion!

In this poem Burns tells how the narrator notices a lady in church, with a louse that is roving, unnoticed by her, around in her bonnet. The poet chastises the louse for not realizing how important his host is, and then reflects that, to a louse, we are all equal prey, and that we would be disabused of our pretensions if we were to see ourselves through each other’s eyes.

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