I am nearsighted. Eye doctors call it being myopic. While I don’t need my glasses to enjoy a book, I avoid driving a car without wearing them. It’s not that I can’t see other vehicles, it’s just that reading road signs requires squinting, which is not good when you’re operating machinery. When I got my first glasses many years ago, I was amazed to see that there were leaves on the trees. Nowadays, I often forget where I have laid my spectacles in the office since I am always taking them off to read something and then failing to put them back on.
My dad was farsighted. He could not read without glasses, but with his naked eye he could count the ducks swimming on Pickwick Lake a mile away. I understand that only thirty percent of the population has myopia while double that number are far sighted, so I am definitely in the minority when it comes to this issue.
I have found it amusing from time to time to hear someone who is either nearsighted or farsighted to look through the glasses worn by a person with a different vision impairment and exclaim, “Boy, you must be blind!” The science of optics dictates that the lenses which make the world clearer for one person will make everything fuzzy for another.
It occurred to me that the differences in our ability to see might offer a lesson about our internal vision: how we perceive our neighbors. We each have unique perspectives as individuals. We see the world through different lenses. They are shaped by such dynamics as our ethnicity, religion, politics, and financial status. While we cannot change these influences, we should be aware of how they can influence our perception of others.
But beyond the cultural dynamics that can affect our vision, the reality is that we are human, we are not perfect. We all have faults. And all too often we fail to recognize our own shortcomings even as we presume to judge those of others. Jesus addressed this as a challenge: “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” The story is told of a critic who became obsessed with the slovenly manner in which a neighbor handled her laundry: the linens on the backyard clothesline always appeared soiled. It was only after his repeated complaints that someone pointed out his criticism was misplaced. The clothes on his neighbor’s line were clean. It was the critic’s windows that were not.
Our perception of others will be immeasurably improved if we regularly clean and polish the lenses of our internal vision by removing the stains of prejudice, distrust, and ignorance. Seeing clearly is more than having 20/20 vision; it is looking at our world with compassion, patience, tolerance, and understanding. It is remembering that whether we are nearsighted, farsighted, or blessed with perfect eyesight, we will “see” our neighbor much more clearly when we’re willing to make an honest assessment of ourselves.