What We See…

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The human body is an amazing miracle. When I consider how the body works, I am amazed. It is truly one of God’s miracles.

The human body is so complex that I can point to any number of body parts as wonderful Divine designs, but the eye is my focus today. Matthew 6: 22 says “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.”

It is not much of an exaggeration to state that humans are visual beings. Our eyes take in four million bytes of information every second. When all this data reaches our brains, we immediately start processing it. How we come to understand the world is largely based on how we see the world. Maybe Pastor Labberton is fascinated by the human eye too; it seems so when he writes “As our brain perceives, sorts and analyzes this vast database, so these windows [the eyes] allow a constant stream of information to pour in. From our earliest days, we rely on the flood of information that comes to us through our eyes. The bold and nuanced, the obvious and subtle, present us with stimuli that our eyes receive and send as signals to no less than twenty-four parts of the brain. Our brain processes this information and has the nearly instantaneous capacity to sort and organize, to read warnings and threats, to recognize and stimulate us to a remarkable range of responses” [74].

But here is where things get a bit confusing. Here is where Labberton acknowledges that we don’t all “see” the same way.

Various factors come into play that tampers with how we handle all that information. I remember when I taught interpersonal communications in college. Early in the semester I devoted a unit of the class to helping students understand the very real factors that make for differences in how we “see” the world. I wanted them to learn to hold back on judging others and use interpersonal communication skills to understand how other people can experience the world differently. My point of view was that communication could bridge the gap between people, the gap that naturally exists when some of us are focused on color while others are focused on movement. Some of us are influenced by our knowledge of certain subjects; an auto mechanic can see what is not working in my car while to me it is just a tangle of wires. Tall people view the world differently than short people. Yes [pardon if this sounds sexist] but women experience life differently than men [gender and socialization]. The list can go on and on but you get the point.

None of us is the same.

But how does this relate to the “dangerous act of loving your neighbor”?

Here is the connection. When we see people we can quickly come to conclusions about them. We think we “know” why they are acting the way they are acting when in fact we do not. Labberton states that “sight is not neutral, it is not comprehensive.” Certainly we cannot see or know someone else’s heart. Social psychologists explain that coming to conclusions about people is natural and normal. To really know someone would take an unbelievable amount of time and we don’t have the time so we cut down of “information overload” by categorizing people. Sometimes we stereotype and that is even worse. All people of a particular skin color act a certain way. People with a particular faith cannot be trusted. That really inhibits understanding.

I think what Labberton is trying to express is that we see human behavior and we try to make correlations to a person’s heart and intentions, desires and hopes. He even says “If there were a chest window through which we could see our own and another’s heart, we would be no better off. Because the ‘heart’ we want to see is not visible: The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look at outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” [75].

In trying to help others, their outward appearance can get in the way, making us less likely to help them because we don’t approve of their clothing or their behavior. The fact of the matter is we don’t really know why they are the way they are; only God really knows, yet we are inclined to judge when we really shouldn’t.

When I taught that interpersonal communications class and that unit on “seeing” the world, I used to close the unit with a quote that I would put on a powerpoint slide, designed to get them to think. The quote was from Hugh Prather and it went like this: “You’re wrong means I don’t understand you. I’m not seeing what you’re seeing. But there is nothing wrong with you; you are simply not me and that’s not wrong.”

Even though the human eye is an amazing body part, it is not without flaws. When we see and jump to conclusions we can make serious mistakes, mistakes that can result in misunderstanding when understanding is what is needed the most.

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