When I was a chaplain at Duke University Hospital, I worked with another chaplain in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. One afternoon, the chaplain and I were called to a room where a young boy was dying. The parents of the boy were recently divorced and they were at great odds with one another. The tension in the room made everyone in the room anxious.
The chaplain I worked with rushed around the room. She created a flurry, I thought. It was too much. She kept asking questions of the family. Then, she ran back and forth to the medical team, questioning and commenting, as they worked. I thought the situation called for calmness. The chaplain, however, could not stay still.
I complained about this to my supervisor in one of our weekly meetings. But instead of indulging the criticisms of my colleague, my supervisor asked how I felt about the situation. I told her I felt anxious. A young boy was dying, the family could not set aside their conflicts to attend to the boy and the medical team seemed unable to respond. "You were anxious," my supervisor said. I agreed. "Your colleague was manifesting your own anxiety. Instead, of focusing on her anxious presence, what about attending to your own anxiety?"
This was a hard lesson. It is a hard lesson. Often the things we find so wrong about others are the things we don't want to confront about ourselves. We are quick to see the faults in others and slow to see the truth about ourselves. This is what Poemen has to say to us. Our judgments and criticisms of others say much about ourselves. Are we willing to see the log in our eye as we nitpick the specks in the eye of another?