A Fresh Look At Logs and Specks

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.
Luke 6:41-42 (ESV)

Sometime ago I heard one of our therapists, Cindy Irwin LMFT, suggest this passage in Luke may have been an expression of compassion to the brother with the log in his eye as much as an expression of concern for the brother with the speck. This got my attention and I was intrigued as Cindy reminded me that a log in one’s eye would surely be exceedingly painful. Perhaps Jesus was delivering these words as a caring direction to someone suffering with pain they were not addressing or considering. This is a view on this passage which certainly supports the passion our therapists have for challenging clients in Marriage Intensives to make their health, well-being and integrity a priority.

It is a familiar dynamic in marriage dysfunction to have one, often both spouses preoccupied with the failure and irresponsibility of the other. Spouses can literally spend a lifetime trying to manage and corral a spouse they believe is damaged, out of control, and in need of containment. To be sure these efforts can be motivated by genuine concern for the other spouse, unfortunately the results are disastrous for marriage. The “caring” spouse winds up functioning more like a parent than a caring companion. These couples typically become locked in perpetual power struggles, powerless to effect change because they are obsessed with changing their spouse without genuine regard for their own contribution to the marital struggles.

As I have continued to reflect and consider this passage I found myself drawn to the accusation of “hypocrite” by Jesus. The brother with the log is judged a hypocrite by Jesus because of his denial and dismissal of his own issues, dynamics, and pain. It occurs to me this may be the fuel which propels hypocrisy. Unresolved fear and pain which further is dismissed and ignored blinds us to our vulnerabilities so we spend energy covering up our fear and pain, hiding not just from others but ultimately from ourselves.

Perhaps this is why Jesus is so forceful in his challenge of the Pharisees.

…he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.
Luke 12:1-3 (ESV)

We can easily dismiss this passage as a simple denouncement of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and miss the message which is relevant for all of us. Fear, threat, pain, trauma, etc. which is not addressed; or brought into the light, or allowed opportunity for healing and resolution will lead us ultimately to hypocrisy. Sadly, the ignoring and suppression of our fear and pain only delays what will be at some point a divine reveal. Everything comes to light sooner or later.

Nothing injures one’s integrity quite like hypocrisy. Think of the impact upon someone’s interest in trusting in us when they see clearly the log in our eye which we refuse to address and deal with. Is it any wonder our spouses may be wary of trusting us? Who wants to risk being clobbered by a log from the other person who is supposedly trying to help?

In an Intensive Marital Therapy session recently I challenged a wife who was appropriately concerned about her husband’s struggle to stay healthy in his recovery from addictive behavior. She was frequently questioning him about his behavior, motives, and intentions. The husband while understanding he was struggling found his wife’s attempts to “help” controlling and provoking. I suggested to her that trying to care for her husband without first addressing her own fear and felt injury would result in his hearing her fear and not her caring. In this way our failure to effectively address our own doubts, resentment, unforgiveness and pain leave us vulnerable to appear controlling and demanding. How sad that our caring would be missed simply because we have not been honest with ourselves, God, and our spouses about our fear and hurt. Placing the emphasis on the other’s irresponsibility unfortunately overshadows what may be genuine care and compassion within us.

Jesus words about the log in our own eye are nowhere more relevant than in a marriage context.

“God grant me the courage to address my own suppressed, dismissed, fear and pain so that I may indeed be person of caring in my marriage.”

I trust you too want to be clean and pure in your motives. If your spouse complains your efforts to “help” are controlling perhaps considering what may be going on at a deeper level in yourself. Self-honesty is the doorway to healing and recovery. A clear objective look at what is motivating my energy toward my spouse may reveal fear and pain which need my attention and even the healing hand of Jesus.

Please post a comment to enter a conversation about this column. I so much enjoy the responses folks are sending to this column. I will contribute to the conversation as well. Let me know if you have a concern or question which could be addressed in a future column.  You can also email concerns and questions to me at aftercare@nationalmarriage.com. God Bless You, and know we at National Institute of Marriage are praying for you.


Dr. Robert K. Burbee
Licensed Psychologist, Intensive Therapist
National Institute of Marriage

  1. Coming from a Christian background, its hard to understand my own boundries as to what is healthy in a unhealthy relationship. I hope Ican aafford council for this. Because I realize I need it!

    • Christie,
      Thank you for your comment. Feel free to contact our office to learn about our services, 417-335-5882. – Dr. Bob Burbee

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