by Janet Frick
Luke 6:42: How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Things you don’t want to hear your 15-year-old half-screaming to you, in a panicked voice, while he drives on a highway for the first time: “What do you mean, glance over my shoulder? I can’t do that while I’m driving 55 miles per hour!”
In retrospect, I suppose it would have been good for me to verify that Colin understood how to safely change lanes before we were practicing driving on the loop for the first time. I had been giving little random driving lessons for a few years before that with the kids, pointing out pitfalls that can arise, and I am certain that many times, I had discussed the concept of our driving “blind spot” with the kids — that area just over our shoulders, where our mirrors and peripheral vision can’t see. It’s dangerous precisely because it’s so close to us that we forget we can’t see it. But a random lesson from mom, months earlier, is no substitute for understanding exactly *how* to deal with that particular issue, while you’re speeding down the road.
And so while driving that day on the loop, I was Colin’s extra set of eyes, to help him have confidence on when he could change lanes. When we got home, I demonstrated for him (in the safety of our driveway) how to do the quick over-the-shoulder glance, and then I stood outside the car so he could get a better feel for where that blind spot is precisely located. Once he realized how quick that “check the blind spot” glance could be, he felt a lot more relaxed about it.
As it turns out, driving is not our only blind spot. My intro psych students learn every fall that both of our eyes have literal blind spots — areas on the retina where we have no photoreceptors, because of where the optic nerve exits from the eye to travel to the brain. So theoretically, if you close one eye, you should have a small black spot in your field of vision. There are a couple of reasons why we don’t… for one thing, our eyes are constantly moving (even when we think we are holding them still, we still make little short scanning movements called saccades) and so our eyes don’t stay static long enough for us to become aware of that blind spot. But on top of that, our brain (which covers over so many of our shortcomings) helpfully “fills in” the missing information in our field of vision, so that what we see and perceive is a unified whole, even though it’s based on limited input because of that structural blind spot. (Here’s a helpful article for how to find your blind spot.)
That nerve-wracking day of driving practice out on the loop got me thinking about blind spots — how to discover we have them, and how to compensate for them. We don’t actually have to eliminate them, and in fact, in the two examples I’ve given here, we can’t. We can’t develop a wider angle of peripheral vision, and we can’t grow photoreceptors over our optic nerve. But we can discover we have them, and we can develop strategies for not being hindered by them.
First, how do we discover we have a blind spot? This can be tricky, because in so many areas of life, we don’t know what we don’t know. We may discover it through trial and error (a sharp car horn when we inadvisably try to change lanes on a multi-lane road) but more often, we can be told by trusted friends / loved ones with experience — not only more driving experience, but more life experience. I once received a gift of a sappy book of inspirational quotes, and most were forgettable but one stuck with me (original source unknown).
“If you want to know a person’s faults, go to those who love the person. They will not tell you, but they know.”
I believe we can discover our blind spots by listening to those who love us, by listening to those whose life experiences are different from ours, and by stepping outside of our comfort zones to live and love in the areas where God calls us.
And then, once we uncover some blind spots, what do we do next? Well, if we can’t eliminate them, we have to learn some new behaviors to compensate. It’s not easy to learn to glance over your shoulder while speeding down a highway, and in fact, that environment is not a good time to practice it for the first time. 🙂 But it gets easier with practice, to make that quick glance around us to see what we didn’t realize we couldn’t see; to be aware of things going on outside of our little incubated world; to learn how to live in harmony and community and mutual benefit with others around us who are also on their own unique journeys.
We can discover our blind spots, and learn ways of overcoming them, as we listen to God, and listen to the community of friends and loved ones that God has brought into our lives, walking (and riding) beside us.
Prayer: God, show me what I don’t know that I don’t know. And help me to find new ways of living, and loving, in better harmony with you, and with more awareness of the new eyes I need to better see the world around me. Amen.