Growing up, my dad had a policy: he would talk to me about me, to my sister about my sister, and my brother about my brother. Regardless of whether he was talking to one of us individually or as a group, he would talk to us about us. Every time I heard him say those words it made me angry because I felt that the actions against me needed to be met with swift justice. To my recollection, he never did talk with me about what either of them had done.
The Plank and the Speck
As an adult, I realize that what I was wanting was not justice but revenge. At the time, what I didn’t understand was my dad was trying to be just and tried to teach us that we were responsible for what we had done as much as our siblings were responsible for what they had done. Whatever the situation, whether it was my sister pulling my hair, me yelling at my brother, or my brother annoying my sister, it is a simple principle of being aware of the plank in our own eye and holding ourselves accountable. Matthew 7:3-5 are the verses about the plank and the speck:
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
While this passage comes from the ‘judging others passage’ of Matthew, in all honesty, judging was what we would do as children. We would point the finger and attempt to convince Dad that it was entirely our siblings’ fault. In Matthew 7, Jesus was saying don’t judge your brother for what they have done until you have considered yourself; hold you accountable for what you are responsible for.
REMOVING THE PLANK: Biblically
- Take Responsibility. We need to admit to and take responsibility for, what we are responsible for. Proverbs 28:13 says “whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”
- Alter the Behavior (Repent). We can’t keep practicing whatever it is that is the plank in our own eyes. In Luke 13:3 Jesus said “I tell you, no? But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
- Apologize if Needed. An ‘I’m sorry’ can go a long way to reconciliation. Jesus said in Matthew 5: 23-24,
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”
Now, the Bible says that “if your brother or sister sins go and point out their fault, just between the two of you” Matthew 18:15a. If we are Christians, when we have an issue with a brother or sister we need to suck it up and go to them, listen to them, and own up to our responsibility. No pointing fingers. No accusations. Be honest, be vulnerable, and be willing to work together towards a solution. When everything is done and forgiveness is had, the relationship will be stronger than it was before and both of you will be better for it. I’m not saying that it will be quick or easy, but if you love the person it will be more than worth it. Before we go to them we need to work on the plank in our own eye before attempting to remove the speck in theirs.
CONFRONTATION COMMUNICATION: Use ‘I statements’
One communication technique I learned while earning my degree, when situations arise for potentially confrontational situations, we should use ‘I statements.’ What is an ‘I statement’? An ‘I statement’ is when we structure a sentence around how we feel versus how we see the other person’s actions. For example ‘I found those words to be hurtful because …’ instead of ‘You hurt me with your words.’ The reason for using ‘I statements,’ is ‘you statements’ stir up defensive feelings. Instead of hearing what is being said, they create defensive strategies in their heads.
Also, if it is helpful, practice saying how you feel beforehand. There have been times that I found it useful to write what I am feeling and then translate into ‘I statements’. Writing it out helps me process what I am feeling and be thoughtful about how I want to present the information.
Always Remember: another person, someone whom God loves, will be on the receiving end of our words.
Recently I have found myself in a situation with one of my siblings where all I want to do is point my finger. And believe it or not, I called my dad. Hold on, it’s not what you think; I didn’t call him to tattle, we’re adults now. Also, I made multiple attempts to talk with said sibling to work it out to no avail. He was called to help me see how I am accountable in the situation. I can’t sit here and point a finger at my sibling—anyone actually—if I have contributed to the situation being what it is. I trusted that he would talk to me about me and sometimes it is good to get an outside perspective on my own behavior.
ACCOUNTABILITY TIP: Accountability Buddies
My dad and I have not always had the best relationship. However, with God’s guidance we have forgiven each other (See my post on Forgiveness) and now have a good and stable relationship. Dad is one of my accountability buddies. My husband is one, I have a couple of close friends who know me well and I trust to be lovingly honest, who help me walk my path. However, my dad has known me since I was born. He knows many of my strengths and weaknesses, and some of my blind spots. Blind spots are areas where we can’t always see how what we say and do affect other people. The best thing about my dad being one of my accountability buddies is that he always responds with a Biblical answer and great suggestions.
When looking for accountability buddies, I suggest looking for:
- Those who know you well; this will usually be people who have known you for a long time, at least a few years, and have been through some rough patches with you.
- People who practice communicating with love. This includes listening. I have a friend I used to work with that every time someone spoke to her she would stop what she was doing and look at the person. She didn’t think of her next sentence or how to fix whatever was being talked about, she listened. Your accountability buddies should listen well and speak with love. “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight” Psalm 19:14a
- They should love you like God loves you. I’m not saying they need to be perfect, but people who speak the truth and love you unconditionally. God’s love is permanent and unconditional:
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels no demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God, that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39
- And they need to refer to the Bible, especially when they don’t have an answer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard my dad say, “well, what does the Bible say?” Then if I didn’t know he would help me find it, many times he knows right where the answer was. Isaiah 8:20 says “Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.”
So Next Time …
Critically thinking about our own actions is not always easy. Many times there will be hurt feelings, anger maybe, even sadness or disappointment. But how we see our own choices, more importantly how another might see our choices, will have a calming and humbling effect on our hearts in the situation. So next time we feel the need to point the finger at someone else, consider talking to you about you. Or maybe someone you trust about you. My dad has known me my whole life and has been consistent on issues of disagreement between his children for just as long. Also, study what the Bible has to say about your situation. The Bible is a manual for life; there is a treatment or solution for every situation within the pages.
Have a Blessed day Y’all