Tonight in our book study we were discussing The Cross of Christ, and the subject came up of dealing with a person who's down on himself. Some agreed that the person who's down on himself is sometimes more difficult to deal with (or at least tolerate) than a person who is high on himself. We discussed what you need in order to be ready to "deal with" him...to lift him out or get him to stop; that a person focusing on himself does not have his focus where it belongs: On Christ and others. The more I pondered it the more complicated this subject became, because there are a number of ways to be down on yourself, though all of them do take your focus off of Christ and onto yourself, which is fraught with problems.
A person might just be self-centered and focusing on their own inadequacies, the things that make him less "up to snuff" in the social arena...in which case there's really nothing better than to just snap out of it and realize that we all as humans share in that to some degree. A person might be dealing with an actual clinical depression that needs medical intervention. Or a person might be overwhelmed with personal problems and be dealing with a heavy load and perhaps depression on top of it. The solutions to any of these might be completely different: The first is a simple self-centeredness, and might be categorized as sin just for the focus being unnecessarily inward. The second is a complex focus on self that needs medical help and perhaps later a call to accountability if the medical help is not fully effective to lift the person back to functionality. The third might justifiably need someone to help shoulder the burdens of life that have become too heavy. It can be unclear to the outsider just which thing is going on without asking questions and seeking the root cause.
So in the discussion, I was pondering these things (being sensitive to it because I have been guilty of dwelling on my many inadequacies; I have dealt with depression, though never received medical help for it; and I have borne a load of difficulties that simultaneously limited my ability to function, also affecting my physical health, compounding the primary problems). I think of Job, whose friends are silent for a week, an admirable length of time in waiting to respond to Job in his pain. Their problem started, though, when they didn't know what to say. Like most of us, their solution to this was to start talking, and rather than lift Job out of his sorrow and grief, they add pain, false guilt, and the need to defend himself.
This subject made me see Jesus' illustration of getting the log out of your own eye in a new light. I've always seen the meaning of this as being that the one person who intended to get the splinter out of the second person's eye was trying to solve the perceived sin of the second person, and that the problem was that the log in his own eye was a greater sin that blinded him to the problem. Well, I no longer think that the log or the splinter in all cases represent sin. I think the log represents anything that obstructs your ability to help another person with an issue. If you don't know the details of the difficulty, you might, like Job's friends, assume the problem is their sin when in reality it might not be. If you work on their problem without clarifying your vision regarding the nature of what needs to be solved, you can't help them solve it, and you might cause further damage. The splinter can represent any personal difficulty that provokes others to want to help solve it. It might be sin; it might be depression or grief; and it might be any variety or bundle of personal problems.
So then there is the matter of how to get the log out of your eye. I think the baseline equipping that we have to do so is first Bible study and prayer. Not that we always have time to go to the Bible when we see a person in need, but our lives need to be equipped; we need to be faithful in these disciplines, so that, abiding in Christ, we are given the necessary discernment, wisdom, compassion, boldness, mercy, and fitting words that can bring healing and if necessary, repentance to the person in need of help. Unarmed with the power of the Holy Spirit, we can do nothing of spiritual value in our own strength. With Him, we can have the wisdom to ask questions, the discernment to realize the nature of the problem, and the attitude and words that can heal rather than add to the primary problem.