The Ones Who Annoy Us the Most Look a Lot like Us on Our Bad Days

It helps to understand how our shadow side works

Jonas Ellison
Aug 16, 2019 · 2 min read
Photo by Charlie Deets

or me, it’s slothful, inept people. People who don’t act decisively when there’s work to be done. People who text while driving and amble slowly as they swerve through traffic. People who work in areas of customer service who clearly. Don’t. Care. No greeting, no smile, not even a nod or eye contact. They’re merely existing, on the clock, of course…

I can’t. Stand. These people.
Their incompetence and uncaring posture makes my blood boil.

This is my shadow. Because on my bad days and in my least proud moments, I’m paralyzed by indecision and misanthropy. Let someone else do it is my motto. I’m good. They’ll figure it out.

Jesus sheds light on this human characteristic in his parable about the plank being in our eye (or log according to which version you read) as we criticize the splinter in theirs.

Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye? How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when there’s a log in your eye? You deceive yourself!

— Matthew 7:3–5

Ugh… Jesus is really good at holding up the humiliating mirror of our own shortcomings. In the face of this universal human truth, it’s hard to fall into the false delusion that any of us are ‘enlightened’. It makes me see how, in so many ways, I am not loving. I’m so fast to point out the faults of others and so slow to see my own.

Have mercy.
And take heed, there is hope…

Jesus’s parabolic shot in the arm invites us to surrender into the grace of something bigger and less hypocritical than us.

It’s not my love for my enemy that matters, it’s God’s. I can rest in that.

I can’t love this person — I can’t stand his lazy ass, in fact. And this is why I must stop relying on myself to have to love him. Instead, I can rely on the One who loves everyone and everything. The love for this fumbling person before me has nothing to do with me or my fleeting opinions that shift like the breeze from day to day and moment to moment. My judgment of him doesn’t matter. It’s worth nothing and I can discard it as soon as possible. Thank God.

This is a divine opportunity should I choose to take it.

May it be so.

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Grace Incarnate

A liturgical logbook of sorts by Jonas Ellison

Jonas Ellison

Written by

Midlife ELCA Lutheran seminarian with big Catholic energy MDiv-ing at LSTC Chicago. He/him. Blogs daily(ish) at

Grace Incarnate

A liturgical logbook of sorts by Jonas Ellison

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