Shifting Focus


Starry Night (Tilt Shift) by Vincent Van GoghWhilst sitting with two close friends last week at my dining room table, I had a sudden revelation about the self and how an individual deals with it. As my friend is talking about his sister and brother-in-law and the troubles in their lives, I realized with some clarity that it’s incredibly easy to talk of others and their problems, but nigh impossible to talk about yourself and your own. This is definitely not a slam against my friend; he’s a genuinely respectful person, and his story was just a story. But it makes me question the nature of humanity as it pertains to the self.

An individual is very apt to see the speck in another person’s eye, but inept at seeing the log in their own. Jesus warned us about and against this very clearly. The question I have is “Why?” Is it that the individual intent of criticism is only engaging in matters which he can see (others around him) while he goes unawares of himself? Or is it that he is actively shifting focus away from himself in an effort to not deal with his own shortcomings and struggles as a person?

This is obviously subjective, and can only be applicable on a person-by-person basis. But I believe it underlines a broader question wherein humanity is shown as selfish by nature; do we naturally act in a selfish way? And, if so, what does it take to not do so?

There are plenty of people that instinctively respond selflessly in situations, both crisis-type and routine. My wife and father-in-law are two of them. How do these people get to that point, past the natural tendencies and to a routinely selfless state? Is it taught? The example of my wife and her father may suggest so. Is there a certain amount of outside intervention that needs to occur first? Can we bring it about ourselves? Is God needed for it to occur at all?

Whatever, whoever, and however it’s brought about, it’s also apparent to me that it’s not consistently applied. As my wife can attest if she was pressed to, even she struggles with focusing attention on shortcomings at times. No one ever seems to be able to focus on problems of the self at all times. And maybe rightly so. They could be called narcissistic otherwise, no?

My thought has evolved:  are people that eager not to improve themselves by focusing attention (even the minutest of attention) on their own issues so much so that they’d rather talk about those of others? This leaves me with a bad impression of humanity as well as myself specifically. And it leaves me with little hope for the future.

This topic will most definitely be returned to at a later time…

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