“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5).
These verses are primarily about the hypocrisy of pointing out other people’s sins while ignoring your own. If you are not concerned about your own sin, then you aren’t sincerely concerned about sin. You just want to sit in judgment on the other person. Sincere concern about sin looks in the mirror first (5a), then tries to help someone else (5b).
That means these verses also provide helpful insight into conflict resolution. Much (most?) interpersonal and organizational conflict escalates because one or both of the parties are more concerned about the failures of the other side than their own. In other words, they are looking at “the speck that is in your brother’s eye” and neglecting the “log” in their own. As long as either or both sides are preoccupied with the other side, very little progress will be made to resolve the conflict.*
How can they move forward? Both sides ought to look in the mirror first. In what ways may I/we have contributed to this conflict? How might I/we have failed on my/our side of this problem? Don’t miss the Lord’s point in these verses—if you are genuinely serious about correcting things, then start with your own eye. Exclusively focusing on the failure(s) of others means you aren’t really serious about dealing with sin. You are really just interested in getting your way.
Sometimes, then, it is necessary to adopt a stance that humbly asks the other side to help you see where you have failed. Instead of assuming they are out to get you or that they are lying, start with the assumption that things may look different from their side, so try to listen and learn. To apply a paraphrase of Solomonic wisdom, make sure you understand the other side before you answer them (cf. Pro 18:13, 17). Many solvable problems turn into deep-seated conflicts because the parties make assumptions and jump to false conclusions about each other.
Will this solve all conflicts? No. But it will do something even more important—guard your heart against hypocrisy and let you walk in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. Those are more important than winning a fight.
*My definition of conflict here excludes criminal situations. IOW, if someone has committed a crime against another person, the victim is not obligated to address the speck in his/her own eye.