Looking past or beneath a person’s exterior is something I struggle with. And hence, something I’m continually reminding myself to do—to go beyond the outside and see the real person as God created he or she to be.
It’s hard because most of us look at the world through our lenses.
We sometimes perceive things and people at face value.
We might jump into conclusion of who a person is based on what he or she did (or didn’t!). Hello, acceptance-by-performance—I had loads of that dished out on me for the last decade. Trying to fit into the expectations of certain people, and when failed, was given the no eye contact, cold shoulder treatment. Like an outcast. Doesn’t belong to the tribe.
Sometimes we form opinions of people based on colours, educational background, even how a person sounds like when conversing in English. Sometimes, we pridefully use these limited data to put people in a box.
I’m guilty as charged on many occasions.
We look at the external appearance of a person:
How polished someone looks or behaves.
How rude someone is.
How different someone is.
They dress differently.
They smell differently.
They speak differently.
Of the foreign worker who struggled to take our order in the restaurant.
Of the old man; grumpy and demanding.
Of the blue-collared worker; rough in his words.
Of the teenager or young adult who didn’t fit into our standard of acceptance.
And we allow these elements to filter how we see the person. We might even label them before we had a chance to know them.
We look at the world through our lenses.
And you know what?
Our lenses often need a thorough wiping from God.
Because our lenses are filthy; masked by the grime of: pride, self-righteousness, shame, blame, divisiveness…
These grime are pervasive. Found in homes, office, churches, temples, schools, malls, etc. And it makes us critical and judgmental people, to a greater or lesser extent.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever have a clean lens. But I sure hope my lens gets cleaner day by day.
That I’ll see people the way how our loving and just God sees them.
And I’ll have the wisdom to understand that we are different because these are different: culture, background, upbringing, experience, surrounding, belief.
That I’ll see beneath the tough or rude shell—hides a fearful and hurting person.
That I’ll see the families of the foreign worker—missing his children back in his home country.
That I’ll see the confusions of the teenager—struggling to find his or her footing in a too-much, too-fast, information-overload, and media-dominated world.
That beneath the exterior of a person, I’ll see:
The hopes of a mother.
The dreams of a school dropout.
The courage of a father.
The hurts of a man.
I went to a photography exhibition recently. This photo caught my eye and heart.
The family in this photo is different from mine as day & night. Yet beneath the exterior—we are the same in the sense that we want and need the same things: love, acceptance, happiness, family, and relationships.
Can we allow God to wipe our lenses clean?
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Photo from the book Grit & Grace, the grandeur of monochrome Malaysia.
*Photo of a Jahai family in front of their home in the Belum flooded forests in Perak, Malaysia.
Photograph by SC Shekar.
*Text by Liew Suet Fun.