Monday, September 29, 2008

Look Me in the Eyes

I find that when I'm in a deep parenting "conversation" with any of my kids, I will have to, invariably, tell them to "look me in the eyes" when they're talking to me, or when I'm talking to them.

I want them to know I'm serious, and I want to see what cues they're leaving me about whether or not they're "feelin'" me, or if I can pick up anything they're trying to hide.

They hate when I do that. And I know it.

So when media pundits were commenting that at the recent presidential debate one of the candidates didn't look at the other one the whole night, it wasn't lost on them.

It's a life lesson worth learning.

Eyes that look away, eyes that avert the presence of the "other," whoever that is, are tough for me to take.

When we look at each other, eye to eye, we can see who we are. Eye to eye is powerful when people are of one accord - words need not be spoken. There is a line of communication that operates at level so deep that words are not needed, in fact, in moments such as this, they usually get in the way. Eye to eye communication is often what one has when put in a situation when words cannot be spoken.

Eye to eye we are in relationship.

There are people in my life who know, despite what I may say about how I'm doing at any given point (you know, the old gratuitous "fine" that is the reflexive response to "how are you doing?"), know if I'm telling the truth or not by looking me in the eye.

Mama always said I was a bad liar. Darn it.

To look each other in the eye when people are in discord may be the best reason why it is necessary. Failure to look each other in the eye in such moments bespeaks lack of respect, and such lack of acknowledgment communicates, either tacitly or explicitly, that the one who is different than you or disagrees with you is of lesser value than you.

The polarization of our politics, theology and churches has bred a perpetual state of acrimony, distrust and a "ends justifies the means" mentality facilitated in no small part by the aversion to look each other in the eye and see each other for who we are.

"The eyes are the windows to the soul," it is said.

To look deeply into the eyes of someone with whom you are in intense disagreement means you can't dehumanize them. And to look at someone that you cannot dehumanize means you have to see them for who they are - people made in the image of God.

And maybe that's why we don't do it - we have to make a conscious decision between our positions and the presence of God I'm not sure I want to see.

When we choose the former over the latter, as we are, sadly, want to do, then we make of our position an idol.

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