Is the glass half empty, half full, or twice as large as it needs to be?
One morning recently during my drive to work I had an eye opening experience. Eye opening may not be the best way to describe what happened so let me explain. As I was headed down the freeway trying to change lanes so that I would not miss my exit, a sneeze snuck up on me. You know the kind. No warning, no tingling nose or itchy eyes; I just sneezed. I didn’t even have time to cover my mouth. Then as I recovered from the sneak attack I looked up and could not see clearly. No, I did not sneeze all over the windshield, but when I reached up to rub my right eye suddenly it was obvious why I could not see. The right lens had popped out of my glasses when I sneezed.
Some people need glasses when they are reading, working on the computer, or driving. And then there are those of us who need glasses to see the end of our noses. With one lens out my eyes were so out of focus that I could not see past the steering wheel unless I closed my right eye. So there I was still in traffic, still trying to change lanes, still trying to get to work in one piece, driving with one hand on the wheel, one eye on the road, and one hand frantically “looking” for the lens.
Thankfully I found the lens sitting in my lap. It had not fallen on the floor or between the seats. So I picked it up, made the lane change, exited the freeway, and at the stop light I took my glasses off to see what had happened. I expected that the screw had fallen out of my glasses and caused the lens to pop out, but the screw was firmly in tact. In fact, there was nothing wrong with my frames at all, except for the missing lens.
The light turned green and I put my glass (they can’t be called glasses when you only have one lens, can they?) on and closed my right eye again. At the next light – and this was the first time ever in my drive to work that a red light was a good thing – I took my glass off and tried to push the lens back in. It would not go. I wondered where I had put that little screw driver the last time I had to repair a pair of glasses. It was at home somewhere in my study. The light turned green. Glass on, eye closed, drive on.
At the next light I tried again to force the lens back into the frame and this time it popped in. YES! I put my glasses on, took them off to clean the smudges off the right lens, put them on again, and waited for the light to change. It did. I drove on and as I turned my head to look to see if I was clear to make my turn, out it popped again. I actually caught it this time, and then drove the rest of the way to work with one eye closed. It is interesting how closing one eye while driving affects depth perception. Even more interesting is trying to focus your eyes with one lens in and the other out – while driving.
Once I arrived in the parking lot at work, I tried again to put the lens in and this time it did go in and stayed in (so far). Once I was back home I found my little screw driver, checked everything out, and tightened everything up. Then I wondered, as any writer does, what I could write about from this experience? I mean, it is not every day that you sneeze and blow a lens out of your glasses rendering yourself practically blind while behind the wheel. Surely there is a lesson here, right?
As I thought about it, one word came to mind – perspective. The way we look at things determines how we think, how we feel, and how we respond to circumstances and to other people. If our perspective is off, then our decision making will be affected and our judgment will be biased. Just like looking through a pair of glasses that is missing one lens, a skewed perspective obscures reality. In fact there are several lessons here, lessons about not making assumptions, not jumping to conclusions, or not making a hasty decision. There are also lessons about how we view other people.
Too often we do make up our minds about people based on first impressions. It reminds me of a co-worker who once asked me if I did not like him. I asked why he thought I did not like him and he replied that he just had a feeling that I would not like him. He had heard something from someone about me that led him to believe that I would not like him. My reply was that he was a new employee and I did not even really know him, so how could I dislike him? You have to know somebody to not like them, right? Otherwise you have not made an informed decision.
Ah, there is the catch. Sometimes the people we do not like are just people we do not know. We make assumptions about them and instead of getting to know them we decide that we do not like them. It is childish, when we think about it, to let a wrong perspective warp our view of someone.
The best example I can think of about this happening I have to borrow from one of the very first Andy Griffith Show episodes. In the episode Opie is asked to contribute to a charity fund drive for needy children. He gives a few pennies. When word gets back to Andy he is flabbergasted. How could his son be so selfish and stingy? He tries to talk to Opie about it and learns that he is saving his money to buy a gift for his girlfriend at school. Andy takes this to be further evidence of Opie’s selfishness. After all, what would the town’s people think when the sheriff’s son would not give generously to the needy children’s fund?
By the end of the episode we learn that Opie was saving his money so that he could buy his girlfriend a warm winter coat. She did not have one and her family could not afford one so Opie took it upon himself to save the money and buy her a coat. Andy was ashamed to have thought that his son was selfish and that he did not care about those who are less fortunate. You see, Andy had the wrong perspective. He assumed things to be true about his son that were not true and as a result he caused himself, Opie, and several others in town a considerable amount of grief over the matter.
How often do we do the same thing? We have the wrong perspective and start to think things about others that simply are not true. We make decisions about how we will relate to this person and interact with them based on these things. It is a house of cards. The danger is not in the cards collapsing but in the way that our personal and working relationships are harmed by things that are not even true.
Before we make up our minds about someone, we need to be sure that we have the right perspective. We need to make sure that we are seeing the truth, seeing things the way they really are, not the way we assume them to be. Most certainly we should not judge someone based on what we have been told by others (i.e. gossip). After all, any one of us would look fantastically strange to someone standing across the room who happened to be wearing a pair of glasses with only one lens.