Tonight we used a passage from Matthew chapter 7 to continue our discussion on topics from the Sermon on the Mount. We started by asking how often do the members of the group find themselves judging other people. Most of the participates agreed that this is something that we find ourselves doing daily in some form or other. We talked about what type of judgements are we making. As physicians we are often called on to make judgements as we diagnose and put people into certain categories that may make then more susceptible to certain illnesses and this is simply part of our jobs. But there are often instances in which we find ourselves being critical of co-workers or colleagues. Sometimes we are often critical of the care some other physician has rendered to a patient we are now seeing. We spent a lot of time discussing how we handle that situation and whether it is ethical to criticize care of another physician to a patient we are seeing. We also discussed a particular opportunity that arises in surgical specialities to be critical – that being the weekly morbidity and mortality conference. In this conference surgical complications are discussed with the hope that insights can be gained so the complications can be avoided in the future. Unfortunately, too often this has been taken as an opportunity by some to act superior and condescending to their colleagues.
In Matt 7:1-5 Jesus warns us not to judge or we will be judged similarly. We talked about what he meant by that. He certainly did not mean to ever criticize or challenge a wrong. Jesus did this repeatedly during his ministry calling people hypocrites and vipers. So standing up against a wrong and trying to right it is not what is being condemned in this passage. So where is the line between being justly critical and being judgmental? This question made up the basis of much of our discussion.
In Vs 3-5 Jesus gives us some important guidance to how wrongs need to be confronted. First he says we have to remove the planks from our own eyes before we can see the speck we want to remove from our brothers eye. What are the planks? We discussed that this may be any jarring sin or tendency that is keeping us from performing our vocations the way Christ wants us to. We may even have the same problem that we are criticizing others for. We discussed examples of this. We discussed the importance of looking at our own behavior critically and honestly work on our own issues. There is a great tendency in our society to concentrate on others faults and minimize our own. It was pointed out that when someone says “well, I’m not perfect” they are really saying they think their sins are minimal compared to someone else’s.
The second lesson Jesus teaches us is to realize we are trying to remove a speck from an eye. As physicians we can all remember learning to do this as medical students and how slowly and carefully one must approach a patient with a foreign body in the eye. The lid has to be gently folded back and a soft cotton swab is used to ever so gently sweep away the speck. This is what Christ is telling us to do with the person who needs correction. We need to do it gently, carefully and lovingly. This is best done after praying about the situation and giving considerable thought as to the correct approach with each person. We finished the evening discussing some instances in which we saw excellent examples of correction in behavior.