Seeing Through Others Eyes

March 26th, 2013

eye on the horizon blogThoreau said,

Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?

It happens all the time. You see the world or yourself through someone else’s eyes and it opens up a whole new perspective. It’s an essential part of living a mindful, examined life.

It happened to me again the other day. We were in the car driving, and Meg said, “Look at that crazy sign.” It was a small sign outside a local food pantry that said, “We need pancake mix and syrup.” I must have driven past it a dozen times and not given it a moment’s thought. But now that she pointed it out, it seemed strange. In a country where poverty and obesity are so tragically connected, is that really the main food they need?

I guess even a pancake has two sides. On the one hand, pancake mix is easy and durable, and why not hand out something that people want. On the other hand, a food pantry is a great place to raise the bar on nutrition. There are other, equally durable and way more nutritious options.

I respect the food pantry and appreciate all that they do. I will continue to support them. This is not a deal breaker. I just hope they continue to think through this issue. In my opinion, they could do better than hand out empty calories. But the real point here is that until Meg pointed it out, it wasn’t something I had examined. It led to a helpful thought process for me and a new perspective.

There is so much to be said for letting others show you what you may not be able to see for yourself. A new perspective, a fresh insight, or someone else’s clearer vision may shine a light on what for you is a blind spot. It’s why photography and novels and eavesdropping are so much fun. We get to listen in to the wisdom of others.

There is a lot of talk about following your own instincts and being true to yourself. This is all absolutely true. We just don’t want to emphasize that to the exclusion of what we can learn from others. Sometimes I’m wrong and I need to see things through another lens. Every now and again, I even watch Fox News to see if I can gain some new perspective. It hasn’t happened yet, but I will keep trying.

It’s not always easy to do, and sometimes requires a little humble pie. You don’t always see what you hope to see. It’s like putting someone else’s glasses on. It hurts your eyes a little, and might take a while to adjust.

When it comes to examining your life and assumptions, we need each other. Others might see that your life is out of balance before you do. Others might see you walking into danger before you do. But it’s not just seeing what’s wrong. Seeing through others eyes can sometimes remind you of the inner beauty you’d been blinded to. I love the story that Alice Walker tells about an experience she had with her three year old daughter. Alice had a scar on her eye from a childhood accident. She was majorly self conscious about it. One night while putting her to bed, her daughter held her face in her hands and said, “Mommy, there’s a world in your eye.” And then gently, she said, “Mommy, where did you get that world in your eye?”

Walker says that most of the pain and shame she had been carrying all her life vanished in that moment. She went to look in the mirror and thought, “Yeah. Yeah, there is a world in my eye. And it is possible for me to love it. And in fact, for all it has taught me of shame and anger and inner vision, I do love it.”

Out of the mouths and through the eyes of babes, and artists and friends and animals, we learn so much about ourselves and the world. The greatest gift of all is when we can remind each other of the inner light. As the poet Hafiz said,

I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.

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  1. Jo Kane says:

    thanks for your article- it’s true that sometimes we can’t always see our own light and a way forward for ourselves when others can. As a coach working with others I see this a lot and sometimes all it takes is holding the torchlight and the potential out front for someone when they are in the dark. This can be a catalyst for transformation.

  2. ian says:

    thanks, great comment Jo

  3. Drew Dyer says:

    For most people the ability to see the world through another human being’s eyes is extremely difficult.  For those people who can do this, it provides them with an inner intelligence giving them deeper connections and more compassion in their relationships.  When you can truly see another person’s perspective and know that their perspective is reasonable based on their life experience, even when you disagree with that perspective, it can be incredibly eye-opening.  The good news is that anyone can get better at this, provided that you’re willing to loosen up on your personal world view, to allow for other perspectives to “right” in addition to your own.  This takes a lot of practice and mental flexibility.

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