You Spot it, You Got It

Recently I read a column in a Catholic publication that was about an important and controversial topic. Yet it was so full of invective and nasty ad hominem attacks that I had to stop reading it. The readers’ comments online were even worse. The depth of their rage and bitterness overwhelmed me. There was no discussion, no kindness, not even civility. Those who thought differently were blamed for all that ails the church. Their ideas were dismissed out of hand.

We see this kind of strident, polarized discourse everywhere these days. I dislike it because blaming others for our problems allows the blamers to feel pretty good about themselves, and that’s almost always a mistake. There’s plenty of blame to go around. No one is excused from it.

My friend Tom takes a “you spot it, you got it” approach to self-analysis: If something infuriates you, take a look at your own heart. He says, “I’m building quite a plank collection, finding them as I do in my eyes so often.”

I’m angry. I’ll try to take to heart these words of Thomas Merton.

Instead of loving what you think is peace, love other men and love God above all. And instead of hating the people you think are warmongers, hate the appetites and the disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed—but hate these things in yourself not in another.

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Jim Manney
Jim Manney is the author of highly praised popular books on Ignatian spirituality, including A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer (about the Daily Examen) and God Finds Us (about the Spiritual Exercises). He is the compiler/editor of An Ignatian Book of Days. His latest book is What Matters Most and Why. He and his wife live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


  1. Well said. In the past, I’ve subscribed to both the “liberal” National Catholic Reporter and the “conservative” National Catholic Register. I’ve canceled both subscriptions. Not because I disagreed with their positions (which I often did) but because they spent far too much time vilifying their opponents with nasty and unfair accusations. It’s difficult to see what either of them have accomplished with this behavior.

  2. When I take the time to look into my own soul for the ways in which I need to improve, I don’t have the time or the inclination to judge others. This is a difficult time in our own parish as new ways of thinking and approaching the Gospel are being moved aside for the retrenchment of the former ways. It is a time when God is calling on those who want change to have patience and keep their eyes on Jesus and His priorities. Thank you for this reminder.

  3. I feel your pain and drain, Jim. I had to stop subscribing to some key Catholic sites because the absence of Christian love/charity/everything was so stunning. As a corrective antidote, I’m currently reading, Greeley and Durkin’s 1984 book, How to Save the Catholic Church. It’s cheering me up.

  4. Well, well, well. You really socked it to me this morning! (in a good way) Always like to be reminded of ways to work on the world that I *can* change: myself.

  5. Great approach, and very timely now that all groups seem to polarize so quickly into US versus THEM camps.
    First making a “plank” list of all the defects in my soul before I spot the splinters in someone else’s is a great way to look at life.

  6. This is so, so true. Whatever it is we dislike about something or someone, we have it in ourselves already. We have become a society of blamers because we don’t want to look at ourselves first. I love that quote from Thomas Merton. Thank you.


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