“Take the log from your own eye before you take out the stick from your brother’s.” – Taylor Yates, grossly misquoting Matthew, The Bible
It’s weird how things just hit you sometimes. Truths that are seemingly obvious remain hidden from you for ages before suddenly revealing themselves in a way that makes you wonder how much of the world you’ve been unaware of, makes you wonder if you’ve been blindly trudging along for much too long.
These moments of sudden truth can happen anywhere and at any time, and they’re usually in the small moments. Mine just happened to be in the great house of knowledge and self-reflection that is the shower. I always think in the shower; I think most people do.
The other day, I was pondering relationships in general, and how complicated they can be. Friendships, romantic relationships, family ties: they all take a great deal of maneuvering. It’s actually miraculous at times how humans, in our infinite capabilities for imperfection and selfishness, are able to come together and form lasting bonds. In thinking about relationships, I began thinking about past ones that had not ended well or gone awry, and plain as day, a glimmer of truth hit me.
You have literally never thought about how much of what happens in your relationships is your fault.
What? No way, I thought. I’m self-aware! I’m open to change! I’m not someone who goes around pointing fingers while seemingly unwilling to point the finger at herself. But the more I thought about it, the truer it became: I had never really considered my own role in the relationships I have with others.
I had from a very abstract level considered my own actions, but I had never considered how my actions were perceived by others, or how my actions (or their misperception) could be causing adverse impacts in my relationships. I had somehow managed to be the queen of over-psychoanalyzing every situation to death without looking at myself once.
This is not to say that I have always blamed others for everything. I’ve often attributed problems in relationships to my own actions, but I’ve only done so when the action seems crystal clear to me. I’ve never thought about how often things can get lost in translation or how what I believe I’m saying and what I’m actually saying can be very different. It’s not out of selfishness or an inability to see fault in myself; it’s as if I’d just forgotten that I’m a person, and not a machine that spits out white photocopy paper pages printed with feelings, thoughts, and motives, written in size 12 Times New Roman.
It’s easy, as I’ve found, to see yourself as an open book. It’s easy to assume that our motives and thoughts are clearly communicated to others, and that any adverse reactions must be due to the thoughts themselves. If there is any ambiguity, it’s the easier route to assume that any error in interpretation is solely theirs. This, however, is missing half the pieces of the puzzle.
As I move forward in my relationships, I’ll be interested in seeing how much more I unearth about myself. I’m already learning a lot. I know two things for sure: The shower is an excellent place for thinking…and I should probably reread Matthew.