For some reason, it is easier to jump to negative conclusions about people than it is to assume the best about them. When we do this, we ascribe to them bad intentions and evil purposes that may not be true. We also reveal something about ourselves, for the faults we see in others are actually a reflection of our own.
In his little book Illustrations of Bible Truth, H. A. Ironside pointed out the folly of judging others. He related an incident in the life of a man called Bishop Potter. “He was sailing for Europe on one of the great transatlantic ocean liners. When he went on board, he found that another passenger was to share the cabin with him. After going to see the accommodations, he came up to the pursers desk and inquired if he could leave his gold watch and other valuables in the ships safe. He explained that ordinarily he never availed himself of that privilege, but he had been to his cabin and had met the man who was to occupy the other berth. Judging from his appearance, he was afraid that he might not be a very trustworthy person.
The purser accepted the responsibility for the valuables and remarked, Its all right, bishop, Ill be very glad to take care of them for you. The other man has been up here and left his for the same reason!“
A California woman became extremely irritated by the hacking cough of her pet macaw. When the distressing symptom persisted, she took the bird to a veterinarian who checked his feathered patient and found it to be in perfect health. Furthermore, the doctor discovered that instead of having some exotic disease, the bird had merely learned to imitate the raspy “barking” of its cigarette-smoking owner. When the woman was informed of this, she was greatly surprised. The insight she gained into her problem helped her kick the habit.
At the turn of the century, the worlds most distinguished astronomer was certain there were canals on Mars. Sir Percival Lowell, esteemed for his study of the solar system, had a particular fascination with the Red Planet. When he heard, in 1877, that an Italian astronomer had seen straight lines crisscrossing the Martian surface, Lowell spent the rest of his years squinting into the eyepiece of his giant telescope in Arizona, mapping the channels and canals he saw. He was convinced the canals were proof of intelligent life on Mars, possibly an older but wiser race than humanity. Lowells observations gained wide acceptance. So eminent was he, none dared contradict him.
Now, of course, things are different. Space probes have orbited Mars and landed on its surface. The entire planet has been mapped, and no one has seen a canal. How could Lowell have “seen” so much that wasnt there'
(l) he so WANTED to see canals that he did, over and over again, and
(2) we know now that he suffered from a rare eye disease that made him see the blood vessels in his own eye. The Martian “canals” he saw were nothing more than the bulging veins of his eyeballs. Today the malady is known as “Lowells syndrome.”
When Jesus (Matt. 7:1-3) warns that “in the same way you judge others, you will be judged” and warns of seeing “the speck of sawdust” in anothers eye while missing the plank in our own, could he not be referring to the spiritual equivalent of Lowells syndrome? Over and over, we “see” faults in others because we dont want to believe anything better about them. And so often we think we have a first-hand view of their shortcomings, when in fact our vision is distorted by our own disease. Glenn W. McDonald