“Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.”
– Jesus, Matthew 7:3-5
In 1985, the U.S. Department of Transportation introduced commercials with Vince and Larry, two talking crash test dummies who advocated for the use of seat belts while driving. The commercials used humor to raise awareness about preventing death and serious injury during car crashes, ending with the tagline, “You could learn a lot from a dummy.” Since 1985, seat belt usage has increased from 14% to 79%, saving 85,000 lives by one estimate.
If someone asked me, “What can you learn from a dummy?” I’d be very tempted to answer, “Not much.” My bias is to assume I can only learn from those who are smarter, wiser, and more experienced than I am. But the truth is that there is much to be gained by learning from the mistakes of others, rather than having to repeat them for ourselves. You really can learn a lot from a dummy. Or as Proverbs 21:11 puts it, “When a scoffer is punished, the simple become wiser…”
Let’s take this one step further. Jesus said that we should attend to our own flaws and failings before seeking to “fix” those of others, painting a humorous picture of someone with a log in their eye trying to tweezer a speck from their neighbor’s eye. Jesus is pointing to our very human tendency to see the flaws of others while being oblivious to our own.
Many have observed that what most annoys us in others is often what we don’t like about ourselves. Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung wrote, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” I also notice that whatever others accuse you of is often what they are guilty of themselves. For example, liars are often distrustful of what others say. I have noticed that proud people are often very sensitive when others behave arrogantly toward them. It’s the pot calling the kettle black.
So the reason I can learn a lot from a dummy, as it turns out, is because that dummy often is me! What I dislike in others often has its roots in what I dislike about myself. May God grant us wisdom to work on the logs in our own eyes, rather than becoming speck inspectors for others.