“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." (Matthew 7:3-5)
What do the 'speck' and the 'plank' mean?Jesus is using a metaphor to make the point that we are in no position to judge others. That is because each of us has things we need to work on.
The "speck" that Jesus is referring to would be someone else's fault. "Your brother's eye" means the sawdust is preventing that person from having more understanding. And the "plank" in our eye represents us not having more understanding - not being able to see out of that eye due to the blockage.
Notice that a "speck" is much, much smaller than a "plank." This means that while we are focused on others' small faults, we have bigger, much bigger ones to fix.
Making judgments of others' faults simply reflects our own larger failings to fix.
Can we change others or should we change ourselves first?Trying to change others is a difficult task. Yes, some people are in a position to help guide others. But for most of us, it is better for us to change ourselves first.
And should we change ourselves for the better, others around us may change for the better as well. This means setting an example for others.
Making big changes requires seeing God as the center of the universe and not us. In order to have a change of heart, we must undergo a major shift in focus and activities. We must gradually put God at the center, and try to put His happiness before our own happiness. Then and only then, will we be able to change.
It is way easier to see that others are not undergoing that major shift in activities than to undergo this major shift ourselves. In fact, the physical world is set up to reflect our faults until we decide to change. So whatever fault and shortcomings we see in ourselves that we are not prepared to change, we will see those faults in others.
When we begin to criticize others for the same faults that we ourselves have, we actually move further from being able to make those changes within ourselves. They allow us to escape our own need for change.
How do we make changes then? We can surely try to make changes, but the Supreme Person can give us the strength to change from within.
We can ask the Supreme Person to help us change. We can take refuge in Him.
We can realize that we are weak, and He has the power to help us.
This is called taking refuge in the Supreme Being.
Jesus showed us how to do this by his example, as he prayed to God openly before his disciples:
"Now they know that everything You have given me comes from You." (John 17:7)