November 15, 2021

Published in Meridian Magazine

"For Mid-Singles: The Mote and the Beam"

“[W]hy beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye. 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” (Matthew 7:3-5).

A “mote” is a tiny speck of sawdust. A “beam” is a plank. As a carpenter, Jesus knew about such things. He probably had sawdust specks in his eyes many times.

Who really walks around with a plank hanging off his or her eye? Pastor Tim Keller says this is Jesus doing standup comedy to make a serious point. No one literally has a plank hanging out of his or her eyeball. A small speck of sawdust has no effect on me while resting on a craftsman's table or in someone else's eye, but may seriously blur and distort my vision when it is on my eye--and might as well be a plank. Similarly, my pain and sin lives inside me and not in anyone else. My own unresolved pain, resentment, and pride impair me from seeing others clearly and helpfully.

When you have something in your eye, it blurs your vision and irritates and distracts you until you get it out.  It keeps you from seeing clearly. Jesus’ analogy is about perspective. A mote in someone else’s eye looks like a beam when it is in your own eye. It stops you from judging accurately or constructively. What could the beam represent? It represents the sin that lives inside you. It could be anger or bitterness toward a former spouse. If a person cannot forgive another, “there remaineth in him the greater sin.” (D&C 64:9; emphasis added.) It could be our own self-serving self-deceit. Sin is not merely a black mark on a Heavenly tally sheet. It is not outside of us. It lives within us—which is why it is so degrading to the soul. The beginning of seeing clearly is repentance—not just of individual acts of wrongdoing, but of the sin that lives within us. It is “a mighty change in us, or in our heart[.]” (Mosiah 5:2.) It means forgiving and seeking forgiveness for the bitterness we have been carrying. That is the genesis of spiritual healing.

Once you see clearly, how do you go about helping others? How do you take the mote out of someone else’s eye? Pastor Tim Keller also spoke to this by posing the question of how we might respond to someone who came to us to get something out of our eye with a hammer and nail, or even a pair of tweezers. We would wince and turn away. We would tell them to please use a tissue and be very careful. That is the higher and better way of correcting others—with extreme gentleness.

The bitterness many feel during and after divorce is not a good place from which to develop a new relationship. Some who have lost a spouse to death may experience resentment toward God or others who they may blame for a tragic loss. Some who have never married may experience bitterness toward people they have dated or wanted to date who they feel treated them unfairly or never gave them a chance to begin with.

When dating during the middle years, most of us are looking for the mote in our partner’s eye. We are looking for the “red flags” that tell us our partner is dangerous. How many see a mote in the eye of a dating partner, which is really a splinter from the beam that is in his or her own eye? How many of us cannot make clear judgments because we are so blinded by bitterness? The way out of this predicament is to focus on removing the beams in our own eyes.

If you want to make a relationship that improves on your previous life experience, a big part of that endeavor is the internal thought work required to change and see others more clearly. It is focusing on the thing in our own eyes rather than the specks in the other person's eye, whether that person is a former spouse, a dating partner, a parent, or anyone else.

We can release the trauma and bitterness that lives within us, through the atonement of Jesus Christ, and find the peace we need to see clearly. Remember:

“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23.) Let us be so filled with the love of Christ that there is no more room for bitterness or blame.

About the Author

Jeff Teichert and his wife Cathy Butler Teichert are the founders of “Love in Later Years” (LILY), which ministers to Latter-day Saint mid-singles seeking peace, healing, and more joyful relationships; and the authors of the book Intentional Courtship: A Mid-Singles Guide to Peace, Progress and Pairing Up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Jeff and Cathy each spent many years in the mid-singles community and draw on this experience to provide counsel and hope to mid-singles and later married couples. Jeff and Cathy are both certified life coaches and have university degrees in Family Science. They are the parents of a blended family that includes four handsome sons and one lovely daughter-in-law.

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