A Person Is More Than One Thing

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 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?” .

Matthew 7:1-3, New International Version

When we’re in conflict with someone, we often try to reduce that person down to one negative quality.

This is useful for us because it simplifies things. We can rationalize why we dislike that person- it’s because they are ‘blank’. It allows us to justify mistreating them or speaking badly of them. Better again, it gives us the moral high ground. Now, our mistreatment or disregard for them is not only reasonable, but right. Plenty of wicked behaviour has been cast down from the moral high ground.

We focus and labour so vigorously over their negative quality (as we see it), that all other aspects of their personality and being, evaporates.

What if we were forced to hold one of their positive qualities in conjunction with the negative? Forced to accept that both negative and positive qualities coexist in us all. We are so quick to disregard and demonize others, when we ourselves hold our own depravities. There are different levels of depravity of course, but each one of us have both darkness and light. It is disingenuous to disparage someone for their darkness without acknowledging their light, and without considering our own darkness.

“He then learns that in going down into the secrets of his own mind he has descended into the secrets of all minds.”

R.W. Emerson, 1837, The American Scholar

People are complicated.

The truth is, most of us don’t fully, or maybe even partly, understand ourselves. We don’t know why we do the things we do or feel the way we feel. Even though we experience the complexities of our own personalities, the battle between our own virtues and vices, we often fail to remember that others are going through the same. Perhaps it would be more helpful in our interactions, to search for the good in others, while searching for the worst in ourselves.

“A good man does not spy around for the black spots in others, but presses unswervingly on towards his mark.”

Marcus Aurelius, 161-180 AD, Meditations
Charles Le Brun, The Fall of the Rebel Angels, mid 1680’s

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