In our family, this is how our physical traits break down. Our daughter Riley (16), son Jed (14), and son Alex (7) favor Ben with brown hair and brown eyes. Our son Clay (10) is the outlier of the kids because he looks like my side of the family with blond hair and blue eyes. Recently, Clay and Ben were out together during dinner time. The rest of us were eating at home when Alex said to Riley and Jed, “You two look alike, and I look like Clay.” Riley, Jed, and I stared with mouths open at Alex. All three of us said, “no you don’t.” We informed Alex that he looked almost exactly like Jed, especially when Jed was younger. We told him that he didn’t look like Clay at all. Alex got up and went to the mirror. He came back to the table, shrugged, and said that he guessed we were right.
We laughed at Alex’s conviction that he and Clay looked alike and his willingness to change his misperceptions once he was told differently. I don’t know why Alex was mistaken. Maybe it’s because he spends most of his time with Clay – they play together constantly. Alex is always looking into Clay’s face. In some ways, it’s like Clay is Alex’s mirror.
I started thinking about how we settle on our perceptions of ourselves. We have the regular mirrors that reflect our images back to us. Sometimes they seem more like fun house mirrors because we focus on certain features and distort their significance. Now, we have the predominance of selfies as well, usually posted on social media. Those photos that are curated, filtered, stylized, and modified. We thought we had it bad when only the fashion editors possessed the tools to edit, trim, and enhance. Everyone has the same abilities these days, and we use them with wild abandon. And it’s not just our images that we skew on social media, but our whole lives made pretty for others to see without any of the difficulties.
We also see ourselves through other people’s eyes. We see how people look at us and how they react to us. Sometimes, we tell ourselves stories about what the other person must think based on a glance or a stare even though we may not have actual information to back up our assumptions. In addition, we gauge our worthiness based on the reflections we see from those who know us well. If the people in our lives treat us with respect and love, we have a better chance of feeling that way about ourselves.
While positive treatment doesn’t always translate into our feeling worthy, negative treatment will shape our self-images in mangled and warped ways. Often, we feel we deserve to be treated negatively because we’ve adopted the harsh opinions of others as our own. The mirrors that others provide to us are not always trustworthy or accurate, but it’s hard to reject the perceptions of those that reject us.
On the other hand, God’s vision always provides authentic and true revelations of who we are. God loves us – simply and unconditionally. No matter what we’ve done or what we believe about ourselves. When we shift our focus to God’s eyes, we will see love, pride, hope, and kindness shining back. God sees our beauty, our flaws, our brightness, our darkness, and all the while he wants us to know that he values us.
We cannot depend on the mirrors on the walls or the reflections that other people provide to establish our pictures of ourselves. But if we concentrate on how God sees us, we may be able to reevaluate the way we view ourselves. We may learn to love and appreciate ourselves a little more. And God would love that.