Transformation and Shadow Spotting

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do no notice the log that is in your own eye?” Matt 7:3 NASB. Most people have read this text as being about sin and our need not to judge. Which is very true, but there are other layers of truths to be found in this text as well.

What if the speck we see in another’s eye is actually our own log-sized issue? Let me explain. Jesus called it a speck for a reason. I think He was creating a contrast. When we notice some “sin” or “issue” in another’s life, we do not typically see that issue as a speck or some small thing. Rather, we see it as a big deal, perhaps a log, and where does Jesus say the log actually resides? In our own eye (life)!

Betty Ford has a great teaching called “Spotting our Shadow”. In this teaching, she contends that the things we hate in others are actually really our own shadow issues. I think Jesus, like Betty, would say let people be a mirror for us.

Those things that drive us crazy, or make us scared or angry, are affecting us because they exist in us and are parts of ourselves that we have rejected, denied or feared to be true.

So if you want to discover the areas of your life God is most interested in addressing and bringing some form of healing or integration to, we need only look as far as those character traits or behaviours that really bother you in others. You know those angry people, lazy people, liars, cheats, stubborn people, rebellious people, excessive people, etc… that we really don’t like. It is much easier on the surface to avoid Jesus’ teaching on this. The problem is, it is our resistance to this invitation that is sapping our energy for life.

What if all these issues that really bother you in others, you have in your own life? What if the energy you are expending to hate these things in others is really about avoiding yourself? The real you – not the bad you – the real you. The person God loves right now – exactly as you are – not as you should be, because you will never be as you should be.

Now I am not saying it’s okay to treat, or be treated by people badly, or be harmful or rude to others. But I am saying that we all have these issues at times. And the odds are pretty good that those things you dislike in others are very similar to the ways you may behave at your worst.

So what does transformation look like once we start spotting our shadows?

  1. We will be open to others and ourselves in new and unexpected ways.
  2. We will be less angry or frustrated with others and ourselves.
  3. We will have less triggers and reactions.
  4. We will have less stress in relationships, allowing a flow of authentic relating; because we see our issues, not theirs primarily. This will make us more humble and gentle.
  5. We will be more accepting and compassionate when we see our shadows in others.
  6. We will be more forgiving and willing to work through our relational issues.

How do we access these gracious places?

  1. Accept the offensive truth that what we hate in others is really my own shadow, no matter how harshly we judge those things today.
  2. Accept that resistance to our shadows only makes them stronger.
  3. Accept that you are not a bad person, but a broken person.
  4. Accept that God loves you as you are. And so can you!
  5. Accept that sometimes we need help to break the cycles we are caught in.
  6. Accept that some of our shadows will never be gone, but are simply a gift to keep us humble and kind.
  7. Accept that the goal of perfection is the trap of idolatry, the rejection of grace and the core sin of Adam’s resulting condition: wanting to be what we were never intended to be – independent from God, and like Him, in power.

I know the next question for most of us will be, “Then what should I do?” The best answer I have for this question is: just LIVE! And trust God with your ability to recognize your own shadow and begin to allow people to be the blessing they were intended to be in your life.

  • ngotts

    Those things that drive us crazy, or make us scared or angry,
    are affecting us because they exist in us and are parts of ourselves
    that we have rejected, denied or feared to be true.

    This is a dangerous claim. For example, it underlies the common trope among people who think of themselves as liberal that any outspoken homophobe is concealing same-sex attraction – which implies that a subset of homosexual* people are primarily responsible for homophobia.

    *I use “homosexual” not “gay” here as the latter generally implies identity, not just orientation.


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