planks & splinters

Jun 21, 2022

Good psychology does not contradict good religion and good religion does not contradict good psychology.

You might take a moment to consider this.

Do you agree that good (and therefore) healthy psychology does not contradict good or healthy religion, and good healthy religion does not contradict good healthy psychology?

The key words are good and healthy since too often we have settled for bad religion and bad psychology reducing the beauty of abundant life (which is the goal of both psychology and religion) to burdensome rules and popular preferences.

It is significant to note how much healthy psychology quotes Jesus, whether it be a golden rule for life: treat others as you want to be treated yourself (today’s gospel), or a more subtle reminder not to judge the splintered eye of another until you have the plank removed from your own. (yesterday’s gospel).

Two thousand years before Jung and Freud Jesus speaks about the shadow –  the unacknowledged and unwanted aspects of ourselves buried in our unconscious and (when unacknowledged and unaccepted) compulsively erupt with little warning into our words and actions.

We forget that when we point one finger at another, there are three unnoticed fingers pointing to ourselves.

St. Paul seemed to be wrestling with this when he spoke of doing the things he did not want to do and not doing the very things he wanted to do.

The wise and insightful Franciscan writer Richard Rohr puts it this way:

“Jesus’ phrase for the denied shadow is “the log in your own eye,” which you instead notice as the “splinter in your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5)…If you do not recognise and name your own “log,” it is inevitable that you will project and hate it elsewhere.

“Jesus’ genius is that he wastes no time on repressing or denying the shadow. In that, he is a classic prophet; he does not merely expose the shadow, but attacks the real problem, which is the ego and the arrogance of people misusing power.

Once you expose the shadow for what it is, its game is over. Its effectiveness entirely depends on costume and pretence.

The true seer knows that “the angels of darkness must disguise themselves as angels of light” (see 2 Corinthians 11:14).

As C.S. Lewis taught, if the devil were to succeed in England, he would need to wear a three-piece suit and speak with the Queen’s English, and surely never appear as a red demon with horns and a pitchfork. It is the same today.

“Power, perks, prestige symbols, and material possessions are the normal armour of the ego. These are Jesus’ clear moral concerns, rather than merely sexual rules, roles, and supposed purity codes. Jesus shows little interest in phoney moral purity, which actually increases repression of shadow issues. Watch out for it, as it takes many disguises.

Richard Rohr
Centre for Action and Contemplation



  1. I wake up to these great reflections & feeling truly blessed. What a start to the day. Short & punchy but more than enough to contemplate for the day. Some great examples of this in the movie Fr Stu

  2. Wow, I love the reference Richard Rohr makes towards naming your log, as this is not how I have looked at this reading in the past… it makes sense to look at yourself and see that you are not perfect but to actually look more closely at what is not allowing you to see the beauty and love of God in others will take some hard work… the road to Life!

  3. A wonderful teminder

    • Ditto. My memory needed this refreshing reminder. Thanks, John.


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