Ignore the Splinter!

“How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Brother, Sister, let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when you don’t see the log in your own eye? You deceive yourselves! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye.” – Luke 6:42 (Common English Bible Translation)


I find a tricky area of guidance for our children is in the field of judging others. It is especially tricky because our role as shepherds of our children is to constantly be judging them with the express purpose of helping guide them along the true and right path. We set an example for judging and even condemning (the action, not the child) in the way we act daily around our children. And we know that children are the ultimate imitators.

I am rereading the book Raising them Right by St. Theophan the Recluse’s  (taken from his larger The Path to Salvation) and am struck by how the whole first half of the book is about our own adult devoutness and its effect on our children:

“…the spirit of faith and piety of the parents should be regarded as the most powerful means for the preservation, upbringing, and strengthening of the life of grace in children.” (p. 35)

We know well that our actions speak louder than words, but it is humbling when we see our children scolding one another as we scold them. Especially if you have more than one child you are well versed in the frequent accusations that siblings have against one another. “He told me that he wouldn’t tickle me again then he did – he didn’t tell the truth!”, “She took the biggest piece of cake for herself, that’s not generous!”, “He was boasting!” and on and on. They are often right in their accusations. However, while it is something that is fit for the parent to point out and correct it is, generally, not their place as siblings. Not to say that we hope they won’t become adults that help remind one another of what is true and good (we need more of that done in love), but that while they are children it is more important, I believe, to have them begin the training of resisting the temptation to judge others.

While some may accuse Christians of being judgmental, judging others is not Christian at all. Christ taught us to love one another, to forgive one another and to ignore the splinter in our brother’s eye until we have removed the log from our own (and you guessed it – most of us will never get there in this lifetime!) In the case of the adulterous woman Jesus tells us ““He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” (John 8:7) It does it not befit a child of Christ to judge another child of Christ. The upcoming Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican reminds us yearly that no matter how “well” we live our lives, if we imagine ourselves better than our brothers then we have nothing.

“If you see your brother sin, do not disparage him, do not reject him and do not condemn him. Otherwise you will end up in your enemies’ hands… Do not judge any mortal being lest the Lord should dismiss your prayers.” – St Anthony the Great

So how do we begin to teach this important skill in our homes? First, always, we work on our own inner struggle with judging.

A few practical ideas here:

Avoid comparing

We hear this guidance recently over and over in parenting circles and it is very relevant to use as Christian parents. Judging others often stems from comparing ourselves with others. This is a natural instinct, but one that we should work hard to help our children (and ourselves) resist. We have all likely heard the saying “comparison breeds discontent” and discontent is not in the image of Christ. As parents we can work to avoid comparing our children with one another (as tempting as it may be sometimes). While we may avoid this verbally we do well to all quiet this instinct internally as well. Instead get to know each child, their strengths and their struggles and go from there.

Be cautious and selective with praise

Avoid the slippery praise language of “your so smart” or “your so pretty” – not only does it set up children for failure psychologically (read more here) but it sets a child up for comparing themselves to others and works against cultivating humility. This is not to say don’t encourage your children – but encourage them for their effort and the work they do, not their natural God given talents. For those you can praise God both silently and with your children.

Take care with how, when and where you correct your children

This is certainly what I struggle the most with. I am tempted to correct immediately, often with irritation and no matter where we are. But in thinking about the example we set I would challenge myself and others to try to approach correction like this:

  1. Wait until you can correct from a place of love and not anger – depending on the transgression and how you are reacting to it that might mean you bring them aside later or you need to remove them from the situation and then allow yourself a moment to connect and calm down. (I recommend saying a prayer together.)
  2. Try to avoid correction in front of others aside from your spouse – I never do this but this interesting article by Father Andrei suggests that the constant comparisons in front of peers can set us up psychologically to be more judgmental.
  3. Notice when you are correcting a lot and save it or spare the child. Do you need to make every correction all the time? I certainly know I feel like I do. But our influence on our children comes from connection, and repeated correction, even done in love, over time can erode connection unless we are working hard to stay connected in between. So maybe forgo the correction of the clothes left on the floor or the wrong way to hold the knife when you’ve had a lot to correct that day.

Remind your children to “ignore the splinter!”

When I was little I apparently used to love to tell my mother “You are not the boss of me!” Ha. Even my kids like to remind me that “Your not the boss, God is the boss.” And I often find myself reminding them “You are not the policeman!” But then a few months ago we got talking about the passage from Luke quoted in the beginning where Jesus admonishes us to focus on our own shortcomings (which are many) and not on our brother’s (which we don’t know anything about really). It’s a poignant comparison, even for children, and so we’ve started using the phrase “Ignore the splinter!” in our home to remind each other to focus on ourselves and not others.

As we approach Great Lent we will soon be saying daily again the prayer of Saint Ephraim reminding us to ask the Lord to help us “see [our] own failings, and not to judge [our] brother.” Let us train our children up in joyful humility, daily introspection and repentance and focus on building up the other rather than tearing them down. Let us remember and remind them that we laypeople are accountable finally only for ourselves (and we parents for our children to a point!) And let us together work to live up to the Lord’s commandment to love others and we love ourselves.

“Whatever you do, on no account condemn anyone; do not even try to judge whether a person is good or bad, but keep your eyes on that one evil person for whom you must give an account before God–yourself.” – St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov), The Arena: Guidelines for Spiritual and Monastic Life

With love in Christ,


About Sasha Rose Oxnard

Sasha Rose is an Orthodox Christian and a mom. She also happens to be a family doctor, a wife, friend, daughter, amateur gardener, lover of music, dance, art, animals, nature and all things playful. Now adding blogger and writer to the list. She currently lives, works and prays in New England with her husband, four small children, dog, 2 cats and 5 chickens.

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