American evangelist Billy Graham’s daughter Anne Graham Lotz discovered later in life that doing things Jesus’ upside-down way brings inner peace if only she could figure out how to do it. She recently published a book, Wounded by God’s People, acknowledging how often she has felt hurt by other Christians. At the age of 65, she discovered the same Jesus solution I learned many years ago: “First take the plank out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Mt 7:5). She writes how failing to follow this teaching robs us of our peace:
When you and I focus on the speck of sin in the other person’s life while paying no attention to the plank in our own, God will begin to get our attention. He may use a lack of peace, an absence of joy, an agitation of spirit, a knot in the pit of our stomachs, a dullness or depression in our emotions or something else to alert us that we are not all right.
Ms. Graham Lotz calls these “spiritual blind spots.” After describing how a friend refused to forgive her and bluntly severed their relationship, she became more committed to applying Jesus’ teaching as a means to see more clearly what she needed to do. She was surprised at how challenging it was.
In spite of the fact that I want to “see,” I’ve found it difficult, if not impossible, to open my own eyes. I know I have blind spots but I just can’t see them. (from Chapter 6 Spiritual Blind Spots)
A major reason we can’t see our blind spots is because there are two truths in every situation. One spouse’s adultery is the other spouse’s finding of a soul-mate. One person getting the job done well is another person feeling pushed and criticized as not good enough. When my son was seven years old, I was pitching him a baseball and he kept missing. Finally in frustration, he exclaimed, “Dad! You’re pitching the ball too high!” That was his truth. My truth was that he was swinging the bat too low. These were two valid truths happening in the same moment in time.
We feel wounded – and blinded – by the truth that affects us. We feel pain because our sense of right and wrong has been violated. We want to make things right, if we can. The problem is, what is right? Is a clean sink right? Is making love every day right? Is it right to expect restitution from the person who hurt us?
Right is in the eye of the beholder. When things are right — as we see them — we are at peace. When they are not, neither are we. Some women walk in public bare-breasted to protest the lack of women’s rights. Others walk in public cloaked in a burka with no part of their body visible, including their eyes. Many people feel pressured to dress according to the latest fashion trends. What is the right way to dress? We only know that we feel ill at ease if we are dressed inappropriately.
Each of us has our own definition of what is right. For most of us, that code is unwritten and unconscious. We are aware of our feelings; we know something has upset us. It could be a small event such as an unexpected traffic jam making us late for an appointment or a major trauma such as trouble at work, a wayward child or our spouse dumping us. Whatever it is, we experience our loss of peace as mental stress, emotional anguish and a physical drain. When we are at peace, we feel the opposite. Our mind is clear, our emotions are calm and our body is relaxed.
Excerpted from The First Rule of Inner Peace: Jesus' Sensible Way To Be Happy by John Kuypers, pages 48-50 ©2014 Present Living & Learning Inc.