One of the less pleasant experiences in life is to realize you’ve been unkind, cruel, or harsh toward another person. Mistakes are, after all, so much easier to identify in others rather than in ourselves. Sometimes, we’re too quick to point out those mistakes either to the person directly, or to our friends, allies, and family behind the person’s back.
In more honest moments with ourselves, I think we’d find our own performance falling short of the high standard we often set for others. That is why I find this poem, starting with the second verse, so powerful:
2. Jesus said, “Be meek and lowly,”
For ’tis high to be a judge;
If I would be pure and holy,
I must love without a grudge.
It requires a constant labor
All his precepts to obey.
If I truly love my neighbor,
I am in the narrow way.
3. Once I said unto another,
“In thine eye there is a mote;
If thou art a friend, a brother,
Hold, and let me pull it out.”
But I could not see it fairly,
For my sight was very dim.
When I came to search more clearly,
In mine eye there was a beam.
4. If I love my brother dearer,
And his mote I would erase,
Then the light should shine the clearer,
For the eye’s a tender place.
Others I have oft reproved
For an object like a mote;
Now I wish this beam removed;
Oh, that tears would wash it out!
5. Charity and love are healing;
These will give the clearest sight;
When I saw my brother’s failing,
I was not exactly right.
Now I’ll take no further trouble;
Jesus’ love is all my theme;
Little motes are but a bubble
When I think upon the beam.¹
This poem was put to music written by Charles Tillman and is found in the current version of the LDS Hymnbook as #273 Truth Reflects Upon our Senses (some may recognize the tune, as it’s shared with the more familiar Life’s Railway to Heaven, popularized at different times by Johnny Cash and Brad Paisley). I have yet to find a great recording of the hymn itself – so my apologies if you decide to click on this link, which will take you to a very dry, unfeeling version of the song, but at least you get to hear the tune and chord structure written by Tillman, which I think is memorable in its own right.
It may not be a great congregational hymn (it’s certainly not a popular one, at least in the wards I’ve attended), but it contains the striving and yearning of the soul I think all of us have felt as we learn to temper our tongues and our feelings, and learn to fill our hearts with love. For me, this hymn is a great reminder of the second great commandment, which calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
¹Written by Eliza R. Snow. The poem is based on the familiar teaching of Jesus found in Matthew 7:1-5. For the lyrics to Life’s Railway to Heaven, supposedly written by Snow as well, visit here.