I’ve discovered something as I’ve gotten older, especially in the last year or so. It’s that most people cannot see me. It’s not that I’m invisible, or even in relation to my introverted nature. It’s not that they don’t see the physical body standing there, or even the smiling pictures I place on social media. I guess the best way to put it is, most people see the surface me. They see the surface you. Or even better, they see you through lenses tainted by their own personal experiences.
The fact is, most people won’t see you, and they likely never will, even if you try to make them see. They’ll see you as a mother based on their experiences as a mother, and they’ll judge your actions based on those experiences, rather than the very real and deep experiences that cause you to make the decisions you make. They simply can’t see the “why” of you. The why you are who you are, and the way that changes everything moving forward.
Everyone is an expert. They’re an expert on everything from parenting to pet care, housework to home improvement. They’re the know-it-all of communicable diseases and even the hidden ailments you cannot easily see, like depression, anxiety, or chronic pain. The knowers and seers of all things under the sun are also usually the speakers and proclaimers, quick to share their knowledge. Sadly, this knowledge is based on what they see of themselves, rather than what they see in you. They can’t see you.
I’ve discovered that experiences shape us. They also break us. But in the collection of the broken pieces, we form who we are to become, gluing and molding new perceptions, future decisions, and perhaps even the ability to see beyond our own cracked veneer to that of another. In other words, to see someone beyond ourself. To see beyond a singular view of life.
Yesterday I had a peer inquire about my family. It was born of caring concern, and she said something that rang true with my own life experiences. She shared a quote from a friend of hers.
The woman had said, “I’d rather have my child above ground, as he is, than below ground, according to my own desires.”
This speaks to the center of seeing. We see, like scripture states, through a glass darkly, or only in part. And when we try and see others, we only see in part. Or, we see darkly, shaded by the assumptions of our own experiences. As the quoted woman above, when it came to her child, she was faced to see not through her own desires, expectations, or beliefs, but to see through lenses that gave life and gave it to the full.
So, how do we see? How do we see others? The truth is, we usually simply see others as ourselves. We say, “well, here’s what I think,” or “here’s what I’d do,” but both of these are inaccurate when seeing others. Just the use of “I” should be enough to make it obvious, but then I guess there are the people who go as far to say, “you should _______,” but even then, aren’t they suggesting what they would do? Again, they’re not seeing you, they’re not seeing me. They’re seeing themselves.
So often, when I pray to God, I thank Him that He’s the God who sees me. Yes. He’s the God who knows me. He knows the heart of me. He knows what I’ve been through, the traumas I’ve faced, and what has shaped me to make the choices I make. He created me in His image, but He sees beyond who He created me to be, into why I am who I am, how the world has influenced that, and how He may love me best to help me become the best version of me, created in His image. Otherwise, wouldn’t God have created carbon copies without free will, insight, or the ability to learn and grow? He sees and loves, uniquely to each one of us.
I know I make decisions that others may not, and I know it’s hard for some not to make that known, but I consistently have to remind myself that not everyone sees me. They only see the version of me that they want me to be, or the version of me if I were them. The problem with this is you cannot see why I’m me, why I make the decisions I do, or what brought me to that place.
I try to remember, that until I have walked in your shoes, suffered your pain, or felt deeply the loss only you can feel, I can’t see you. I can try, but it’s only in part. I can’t see you, and you can’t see me. We just see a portion of a whole.
When my heart breaks at cruel words, I have to remember, “they don’t see. They don’t know why. They don’t feel the heartache, or understand the happiness that comes after.” They just don’t.
When someone says things like,
“Well, I’d never cheat on my husband…”
“No way I’d let my kid do that…”
“I think any caring parent should have known their child was suicidal…”
“How can he let her treat him that way…”
“Why can’t she just pray for healing and get out of her head…”
“I’d just be grateful for a good paying job…”
“But he’s a really good provider…”
“I’d whoop my kid’s tail…”
“No way I’d take that…”
“Doesn’t she realize all she has to be thankful for…”
“No way I’d wear that…”
“Didn’t their momma teach them better…”
“Today’s generation doesn’t know how good they got it…”
“Those people have no clue how hard it is now…”
Are you seeing the trend? Vision is impaired when it’s through self inspection. Sadly, the vast majority don’t see me. Not the deep, secret, sacred parts. They are the parts that I toil over, not making decisions lightly. They are the parts that are no one’s business but my own, my family’s, and the God we serve. My therapist told me recently that the opinion of others should be weighed on its proximity. What a friend says will differ greatly from what a stranger on the internet says. What a relative says will have less impact than what my husband says. He’s in my circle. If anyone can see the most of me, it’s him. We all have that circle of trust and love, and the thoughts, words, and actions of those beyond it shouldn’t impact us as greatly as we allow it. We must remind ourselves that the further the ring of splashed water extends, the less the ripple. I feel the rock tossed upon my waters, but the person on the shore may never see the effects of that stone’s throw. They cannot see me. They cannot see you. And it’s a good reminder for us all to take little notice to our hearts regarding the opinion of those who cannot see.