I see, said the blind man
I was in the fourth grade when I got my first pair of glasses. I probably needed them for a long time before that, because once I put them on, I was shocked to find out just how much of the world I’d been missing.
The neighbor’s work van had writing on it. Big letters, actually.
There were wires stretching from one telephone pole to another.
The trees had individual leaves. Like…all of them!
I really had no idea. How could I? Until I had corrected vision with which to compare my old compromised vision, how would I know? Poor vision was my normal. I had found ways to cope so that it wasn’t obvious to others that I couldn’t see, but eventually the demands of my life—seeing the chalkboard in school, for instance—made my predicament very apparent.
And here is the kicker: since my normal was my normal and I had never experienced vision more clear than my normal, I would have been hard-pressed to believe that anyone else could see more clearly than I could. Not because I was only a 4th grader, or because I was stubborn. And not because I didn’t trust the word of those around me.
I simply had no frame of reference for it, and you telling me all about your vision wouldn’t have done a thing to change mine. I might have found your claim interesting, but it wouldn’t have changed the fact that my eyes could not focus in a way that my brain could turn into sharp, comprehensible images. I had a hardware problem, not a software problem.
Once I got a pair of eyeglasses, that all changed. I suddenly had an experience that shifted my normal. I could put my glasses on and see, and take them off and see how much I couldn’t see. My standard for clear vision got an immediate upgrade because I received some serious revelation!
It occurs to me that when we talk to people with whom we have differences of belief and opinion, we often attempt to talk them into our point of view. We may believe that we see more clearly, that our standards are higher or more moral or ethical, and perhaps they are. But when we’re butting up against another person’s normal, we’re asking them to see clearly without the corrective lenses of revelation and experience.
Revelation is not the same as information.
When someone expresses a belief or opinion that differs from yours, do you stop to really listen without arguing and trying to convince them of your own position? What are they saying? Why do they believe what they do? What is the basis for their belief? Don’t listen through your own lens and judge them according to what you believe they are saying or your beliefs of why they believe what they do. Ask them. Be respectful enough to listen to the answers…and compassionate if they suddenly discover they don’t have any. Not every blank hole in the universe is waiting to be filled with your opinion, no matter how confident you are in the correctness of it. God leaves room for tension and waiting and desire.
We’d do well to do the same.