Thursday, November 21, 2013

When Blind Spots Turn us all Blind

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15

One of the things that really bugs me is when we try to tell people how they should feel about situations pertaining to their unique life experiences, dismissing their real feelings. Ugh!


"Why would you ever feel that way?  You're just sensitive making a mountain out of a molehill." 


Ugh... 


And I think one of the reasons we do this is because we all have these things called blind spots.  Scientifically defined: blind spots are areas on the retina without receptors that respond to light. Therefore an image that falls on this region will NOT be seen. Socially: Blind spots are things, people, or ideas that we cannot see; why?? Because we do not all have the same experiences.  Which is why we all have them.  


Blind spots cause us to dismiss each other's perspectives calling them wrong.  


Blind spots cause us to become defensive when someone disagrees with our views as they try to tell us of their unique points of views.  


Our environments, family of origin, religion, culture, socio-economic status, gender and sexual orientation all shape our unique perspectives. 


Here are some examples:


If you've never been a woman, your blind spot might be women's issues.  Chances are you will not know what it feels like to be the only woman in a room filled with men.


If you've never been a black man, your blind spot might be issues pertaining to the black man.  Chances are you will not know what it feels like to be feared and to be thought of as a criminal before you're even met.


If you've never been a single parent, your blind spot might be single parents.  Chances are you would not know what it's like to work multiple jobs to make ends meet and take care of a family?


If you've never been divorced, your blind spots might be those who have gone through divorce. Chances are you would not know the feeling of irreconcilable differences and your best friend becoming your enemy?  


If you've never lived in the "ghetto" your blind spot might be those who live in those tough neighborhoods.  Chances are you will not know of the complicated issues surrounding families in those rough neighborhoods?


If you belong to one religious group, your blind spot might be other religious groups.  You may not understand why others from different religious backgrounds would feel so strongly about their beliefs.


If you have never migrated from a different country, your blind spot might be those who are immigrants.  Chances are you will not understand the many challenges facing those coming from a different land or policies in favor of immigrants? 


And if you've never been a homosexual man or woman, your blind spots will certainly be those in our society who are homosexuals seeking to be understood and be treated with acceptance and fairness.


The point is: we all have blind spots.  


I wonder if that's why the Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman Church "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn"  In fact he pleaded with them to Love one another in Romans 12: 

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love.Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor,serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.


When we check our blind spots, we are actually doing the most loving thing for one another.

No, it does not necessitate living through every experience in order to understand and empathize with one another;  but it does mean you are NOT the expert on issues concerning them.  Your role is that of a student.  And as a student your role is to lovingly listen to their unique experiences and be schooled about those unique perspectives.  We can't simply sit inside of our own comfortable boxes, we need to reach across the aisle, ocean and culture lines, we need to step outside of ourselves and comfortable places so we can limit our blind spots. Stepping out is often quite challenging, uncomfortable and messy but to love as the Apostle Paul described, it is worth it. 

Are you willing to admit that we all have blind spots?  Are you willing to seek sitting with others with experiences different from your own and be schooled?  Or is your unique experience the only "right" lens from which to view the world? 


Check out these fun optical exercises to see how optical blind spots work.


Go for it and experiment with your blind spots both optically and socially.


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