How do we choose to see other people?
And what does that mean about how we see ourselves?
At counseling a while ago, her closing remark to me was, “You are doing almost everything right. And you need to start focusing on the good things you are doing.”
Like people, my view of others and myself is simple and complex simultaneously. In a moment it is black and white, and then upon reflection there are more than fifty shades of gray. There are back stories, weird moments, genetics, parenting, feelings that should have been squashed but came alive, and who even knows what else?
“Jenn is the worst. An inconsiderate and selfish thief who cares nothing for her family or for others.”
“How sad she must feel to cause herself and others such pain. She can’t be a true narcissist. I hope whatever is causing her pain ends soon.”
And on myself…
“I’m so glad I’m not as inconsiderate as <insert name of person I’m judging>.”
“What does <insert name of person I’m feeling insecure about> have that I do not? Smarter? Kinder? Better looking? A better soul? What do I lack? Where have I failed?”
In moments and thoughts my brain will drift between strange extremes. Others and myself are the best, worst, deepest, most shallow people I know. I make others and myself the hero and villain at the same time.
The truth of a person, is of course, somewhere in between those shades. Maybe they are gray, but maybe they are purple, green, orange, fuschia, turquoise, or something else? We are bright shining examples of the best of humanity is some areas. We are just plain damn average in most areas. And in other areas, we are dark, gray, weak, and struggling.
Yet it all begs the questions, “How should we view ourselves?” and “How should we view others?”
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7, 1-5 (NIV)
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13, 34 (NIV)
A person who is truly self-reflective, is often freer from judgement. The ability to look within, see your own flaws and then ask “Why am I judging this person?” is a skill. But it is also something that is demanded of us. Being cruel is easy (I know, because I can be great at it). Yet taking the plank from our own eye is the only thing that gives us a clear view of the humanity of others.
Of course, Biblical context is everything. In John, Jesus is speaking to his disciples a short time before Peter will deny him. He is telling the church that will be built what is needed of us. After betraying him, and after denying him, Christ did not falter to lay down is life for his disciples. Let’s be honest, I’m probably not ever going to reach that level of grace and forgiveness. But I let myself be inspired by His gift.
We steal, because we are lacking. We lie because we are empty and filling a void. Others are worthless, because we feel worthless. That is not how God sees us. He tells us simply that he loves us, and that in return – we are to love others. With his remaining moments, God asks us to see us and others as whole people who are worthy. Worthy of love, beauty, and redemption.
I pray I can be better at seeing myself and others with such light.