A Fungus Among Us

by Andy Wood on February 16, 2009

in Insight, Life Currency, Words

critic-4I’m about to share some relevant, important information to you – especially if you are interested in starting a business or avoiding germs.  I’m also going to show you something that’s so painful, it’s funny (or vice-versa).  Why?  Because I can!  And because The National Enquirer was right about inquiring minds.

But first, a story with a point.

I miss my old friend Randall.  During our younger years, we spent many hours together praying, talking, and clowning around.

Randall once told about a funny, yet convicting experience.  For a long time he’d been watching another highly-respected Christian.  One day he announced to his brother Leigh, “I think I’ve finally found something wrong with Greg.”

Leigh, known for his dry humor and sometimes biting sarcasm, replied, “Congratulations!  You found the mote!”

The “mote” to which Leigh referred was the old King James word for “speck” in Matthew 7:3-5.

“And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, `Let me remove the speck out of your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?  Hypocrite!  First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Next time you’re in a crowd of people, Christians in particular, look around.  You will find your share of people whose “eyes” are filled with “motes.”  And you’ll be tempted to look past the pole in your own eye to notice, criticize, or try to correct the specks in someone else’s.

Sometimes the mote will be easy to see; sometimes it is well-hidden.  Sometimes the mote is only a temporary blind spot, and sometimes it’s a life-long limitation.  But as long as people are people, we’ll have motes in our eyes.  And there will always be some people who believe their calling in life is to point out other people’s specks.

Who knows?  Maybe one day in Church World we’ll elevate it to a staff position.  “Hello.  I’m John Smith, Motes Pastor at the First Self-Righteous Church.  I’m disappointed to meet you.”

The motes ministry takes on many forms. Here are some of the most common.

Mote Clickers

Mote Clickers follow the foilables and problems of others with the click of a mouse.  The Internet has made it possible to discover the weird, the strange, and the stupid – so long as it’s somebody else we’re clicking on.

600-01041460Example:  Just today I learned the names of the 10 dirtiest hotels in America, based on user ratings.  Ever wonder if you’ve spent the night with somebody else’s grunge?  Brace yourself – here goes:

1. Hotel Carter, New York, NY
2. Continental Bayside Hotel, Miami Beach, FL
3. New York Inn, New York, NY
4. Eden Roc Motel, Wildwood, NJ
5. Days Inn Cleveland Airport, Brook Park, OH
6. Days Inn Airport/Stadium Tampa, Tampa, FL
7. Travelodge Bangor, Bangor, ME
8. Velda Rose Resort Hotel, Hot Springs, AR
9. Ramada Plaza Hotel JFK International Airport, Jamaica, NY
10. Days Inn & Suites Gatlinburg, Gatlinburg, TN

I’m only sharing this, of course, because I’ve never had the joy of a night of fun with the fungus.

Mote Vicars

These are the preachers – religious or otherwise – who love to point out the sins of everybody else.  Soapbox Sam has an axe to grind.  Mister Blister is armed for bear.  Camera rolls, the Vicars take their toll.  The liberal press, James Dobson, Democrats or Republicans (take your pick), the government, the ACLU, the Religious Right – you name ‘em, somebody’s hacking ‘em.

How’s an example of how Mote Vicars work.  The Small Business and Entrepreneurial Council recently released its ranking of the states that impose the fewest (and most) burdens on the growth of new businesses in their areas.  So, since I’m all for anybody who dreams of starting their own enterprise, I can flip the list upside down and put it this way:

Want to start your own business?  Here are the ten worst states (plus D.C. – always the champion of anti-small business or growth anything) to start:  District of Columbia, New Jersey, California, Maine, Rhode Island, Minnesota, New York Massachusetts, Vermont, Iowa, and Hawaii.  What does THAT tell you?

Mote Snickers

This bunch loves to laugh.  At you.  At me.  At anybody but themselves who get caught being, well, themselves.  Mote Snickers are all over the blogs, Youtube and reality TV.  They’re responsible for priceless works of art like this:


Mote Pickers

xthu-00420Here’s where it gets more personal.  These people love to point out what somebody else’s problem is.  They know what’s wrong with the church, what’s wrong with their leaders or bosses, what’s wrong with their friends.  They also know what’s wrong with you, but they don’t have the guts to say it to your face.  “Nobody’s perfect,” they say, and they’re out to prove it!

Mote pickers use phrases like:

  • “He means well, BUT…,”
  • “Now I’m just sharing this so we can pray,” and,
  • “I don’t want to be critical, BUT… (insert criticism here).”  Oh, and in the South, we soften it up with “Bless their heart.”

One thing is sure – if a mote picker is telling you about someone else’s faults, then they are telling someone else about yours.

Mote Flickers

Imagine having sand in your eye, and somebody trying to help you by thumping it out.  That’s how painful these people can be.  To a mote flicker, only one thing is important – getting that speck out of your eye.  Never mind your feelings or his plank.  Never mind what the Bible says about a brother overtaken in a fault.  Just tell ‘em like it is!  If they can’t stand the heat, they should stay out of the kitchen!

You’ll hear flickers use phrases like:

  • “Now you know I’m just saying this because I love you,”
  • “One day you’ll thank me for this,” and
  • “Could I share some constructive criticism?”

You can always spot a mote flicker – they only say they love you when they are about to blow you away.

Mote Kickers

You never have to worry about this guy until he realizes you aren’t perfect.  Stay on his pedestal and you’re O.K.  But fall off just once, and you’re dead meat.

Mote kickers don’t deal with the specks in your eye.  They kick you for having specks in the first place.

Mote kickers say things like:

  • “How could you do this to me?” or
  • “I can forgive, but it’ll never be the same.”

So how do you deal…

with the limitations of others?

  • By starting with the plank in your own eye.
  • By keeping a spirit of meekness, lest you be tempted by the same weakness.
  • By being aware of your own blind spots.
  • By learning to express the grace of God to others in spite of and because of their specks.

There’s a word for all of that:


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

will hapeman February 17, 2009 at 9:11 am

Is there a mote magnifier installed on many computer monitors? I find such critical things on the net. So what is our duty to each other? Are we “required” to point out the mote, or to politely ignore it and let God wash it out?

Andy Wood February 17, 2009 at 10:22 am

Will – Yeah, I think in light of the imonk discussion the last day or two, maybe there’s a spiritual gift of criticism.

In response to your question – a great one – I think the first thing we day is to humbly ask why it’s so easy for us to see the “mote” in someone else’s eye. The old adage is true – when we find faults in others, they most often point to faults in us.

I also think we should pray – both for ourselves (“considering yourself” – Gal. 6:1) and for that repository of moteness. And then to ask for a teachable moment – an open door.

This very thing happened recently with someone I care greatly about, who was “leaking” in the area of anger/temper. It was a potentially volatile situation, so I specifically asked the Lord for an opportunity to “have that conversation.” 48 hours later, she was in my office, and highly motivated to talk and hear anything I had to say.

No, it doesn’t always work out that way. But if Jesus wasn’t calling on us to self-reflect first and call in Him to get involved in the process, I don’t know what else that passage could mean.

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