The Talmud teaches us "kol haposel bemumo posel" -- whatever blemish you attribute to another is a blemish that you yourself possess. In contemporary terms, this seems to translate as "the louder you scream about family values, the more likely you are to be found in a compromising situation in a hotel room in Las Vegas."
The news and political world is full of examples, Eliot Spitzer being the latest in a long line.
But before we engage in schadenfreude, before we indulge that perverse pleasure we take in seeing the high and mighty get their comeuppance, we should examine the verse again.
The advice, the warning, the psychological insight contained therein is not limited to our political leaders or government officials or Hollywood celebrities. It applies to all of us.
We all need to be introspective. We all need to be self-aware. We all need to examine our thoughts, our characters, our motivations. Especially when criticizing someone else.
The next time we get annoyed at the actions of a friend, we would do better to turn the magnifying glass inward.
Because yes, it is most often true that an unattractive quality in another, a habit or behavior that really bothers us and gets on our nerves, does so for the very reason that it is all too familiar. We recognize it in ourselves.
The next time we get annoyed at the actions of a friend or relative we would do better to turn the magnifying glass inward. Is that my own anger I see? My own impatience? My own tendency to speak gossip?
Does that gossip bother me because it is such a violation of Torah and our obligation to love each other or because it reminds me all too clearly of my own propensity for being the bearer of such juicy tidbit?
When I watch someone yelling at the bank teller, am I offended because I am empathic to the teller's good nature and desire to do her job responsibly, by the unfairness of the attack? Of is it that such a public display of anger reminds me how close my own feelings are to the surface, how easily I could be triggered, possibly how tempted I am to behave the same way?
It is never pleasant to watch the public humiliation of fellow human beings. Whatever their crime. Even if they deserve it. Because we are human too. And it could all too easily have been us.
Whenever we become self-satisfied, too assured of the rightness of our approach and the appropriateness of our character, we put ourselves at risk. We too, could step over the line. Only humility keeps us in check. And the remembrance of Who is watching.
Instead of rejoicing in his downfall, we should re-examine our own lives, we should make sure our own behavior and character could withstand the scrutiny. That should keep us too busy to worry about anyone else.