“Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam from your own eye?” (Luke 6:41)

Your shadow self is not your evil self. A lot of people do not want to take a look at their shadow self – that part of you known only to you alone and hidden from other people. It is that part of us we do not want to see; we do not want to talk about. We do not want other people to see it. So, we live in the shadow and deny it. Have you ever sat down to ask yourself questions about this part of you? What do you want to do about it?

The first reading from the book of Sirach talks about the analogy of sieve. In Israel, sieves were used to sift out the outer, dead husk or chaff of a grain, like wheat from the inner, soft, living grain that would be used in making bread. Here, Sirach is saying that speech is like a sieve. Speech reveals those parts of ourselves that lay in the shadow, in our minds and hearts. The speech, like sieve identifies them. If this is so, it is important we pay attention to things we say, the conversations we have, and all different kinds of words we utter. They reveal the true nature of the soul. And what we say does not just unmask our shadow selves, it equally conditions our soul. For example, the more you praise something, the more you love that thing; and the more you rail against it, the more you condition yourself to hate it.

So, if we do not pay attention to our actions, thoughts and words, it will be difficult to really to own up our shadows and know really whom we are. And if we do not own up our shadow self, the next logical thing is to develop defensive mechanism and projecting those shadows to other people. For example, you are obsessively hating people who are proud, without knowing that it is your shadow self which you have failed to embrace, that you transferred to those around you. What you do not like, you export elsewhere and hate elsewhere. If people who are proud turn you off and border you, you probably have been a proud person; otherwise, why does it border you? What it means is that you see your own faults in other people.

Our spiritual education or formation starts when we pause and start to pay attention to what we say and the manner of how we say things. If we do not pause to listen to our fears, our shadows, our true inner identity, we end up playing the blame game. We start blaming everyone around us except ourselves. The story of Adam in the Book of Genesis tells us how he blamed Eve, when God was probing him for eating the forbidden fruit. You see some say- he/she made me do it. No one made you do anything. If you are a terrible mother or father or an alcoholic or whatever, you have to own it up and see how you can be a better person. That is how we become mature persons. Some people spend their whole life blaming other people. It is always someone else’s fault. That is why Jesus, in the gospel of today is saying, “You hypocrite, deal with your own eyes first.” When we are in any problem, the first thing is to look into ourselves first before we can start looking for whom to blame. This is the high price of consciousness- that we have to recognize our own shadows and faults.