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Seeing Their Hurt

Have you ever experienced the awkward anomaly of seeing your mug in someone else's pupil? This scenario has only happened to me a handful of times in my entire life, but I find it fascinating every time it happens. I usually tell the person I am speaking with that I can see myself in their eyeball, and then I ask them to "stay very still, " and I move my head around to get the best view possible of myself. Unfortunately, I'm never quite satisfied with the whole fishbowl reflection of my face; and my head always looks enormous. One time this happened with my wife and I told her the reflection was making my head look larger than reality, she went on to explain to me that my head actually is "very large" and that it was likely an accurate representation. Ouch! Whenever this phenomena happens with a stranger, I inevitably end up apologizing to the individual whose eyeball I was holding hostage.

While this is a silly literal example, I also think it's a great metaphor for understanding how we approach conversations and relationships in life. To be candid, for probably 11 of the last 12 years of being an adult, I made decisions on who I associated and made friends with based on how well we "clicked", or if there was conversational chemistry, or similar interests. If my wife and I went out with a couple and I thought the husband was unimpressive, not interesting, or just a nerd, I'd tell her afterwards that I didn't want to continue getting together with them. I would label individuals after a one-hour dinner. Selfishly, I would judge them based on how they made me feel. This is where the weird eyeball illustration starts to make sense.

When I saw people, I only saw myself.

I would think, are they interesting to ME? Were they interested in ME? Were they nice to ME? Did they ask ME enough questions? Is this someone that I can be proud to associate with? I justified this type of approach because after all, this is my free time we are talking about and I was always nice, interesting, and interested in other people, or so I thought. My rationale was that there should be reciprocity of these traits to have quality conversations or relationships with people.

For the last 12 months God has been doing a work in my heart regarding how I view others. He has stretched me and taught me so much, mainly in the mistakes I've made in jumping to conclusions. Two specific thoughts have helped me mature in my perspective:

First, just because I think someone else is lacking basic relationship etiquette or competencies in a certain area, does not make it true. That's a tough one to swallow! What if our observations or perceptions about people are wrong? Our judgement is imperfect.

Secondly, even if somebody is lacking key interpersonal / relationship-building skills, there is often a deeper reason I believe. If someone is quiet, they may be sad or lonely. If someone is rude, they may have been hurt by others in their life. If someone seems self-focused or uninterested in you, maybe they didn't grow up in a family where thoughtfulness or the Golden Rule was displayed. Perhaps people have stolen and taken from them. If someone does not trust you, maybe they were taken advantage of in their life. Maybe they are insecure or lack confidence, or just do not know what to say in certain instances. If we are honest, all of us are relationally deficient in certain areas, some more than others.

Instead of labeling individuals, I am praying for patience and viewing it as an opportunity to understand them better. Whereas before I would write that person off, I'm now more interested to understand their story, and hopefully their hurts, to understand them better. The more I learn, the more I can help and serve them. I know it sounds weird, but people I would have labeled as boring in the past have become very interesting to me. Trust me, I do not believe I am perfect in this area of relational patience, but I am thankful for the self-awareness God has given me on the topic. In my life, God has already used this new approach as a ministry as relationships were never intended to be about receiving, we are supposed to give and pour into others. We are supposed to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Reciprocity should not be measured or considered. Ironically, just as scripture promises in Galatians 6:7, the more we invest in others, even those where chemistry or mutual benefit is lacking, the more we will receive in return. Isn't it amazing how when we give up on receiving, we actually receive more? God wants to bless us and give to us, but He wants our motivations to be pure.

When I see you, I want to consider your story, your hurts and your worries. I no longer want to consider myself.


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