The Glasses You Wear
J. R. Miller, 1904
It is very important if we are to see well, if our eyes are to do honest work for us—that we wear the right kind of glasses. Some people do not and therefore fail to see things clearly. They think the trouble is with the objects they look at, that they are warped or out of proportion, whereas the fault is in the lenses through which they look. There is a story of a man to whom everything appeared crooked or distorted. He was not aware of it himself—but thought things really were not as they appeared to him to be. He did not imagine that he was missing so much beauty through the fault of his glasses, and kept on wearing them without seeking for anything better. One day he was visiting at a neighbor's house and idly picked up a pair of glasses that lie on a table and put them on. To his amazement, everything seemed different. He looked at people, and their faces were bright and clear. He looked at the furniture of the room, and it was graceful and regular—it had appeared almost grotesque before, as his glasses showed it to him. He looked at the pictures on the wall, and for the first time saw their beauty. He walked out of doors, and the trees, which heretofore he had seen only in vague, gnarled form, appeared beautiful. He learned now that by using his defective glasses, he had been missing a large part of the pleasure of seeing. He quickly bought a pair of glasses which suited his eyes, and all the world became new to him.
There are many people who are wearing a wrong kind of glasses. There are some, for instance, who never see beauty in any other person. All characters are distorted to them. They see only the faults, the imperfections, the blemishes of people's lives. Even the noblest and best people, coming under their eyes, fail to reveal any features which are winsome and attractive. They never have a word of commendation for any piece of work any one else does, or for any act. Only yesterday, one tried for half an hour to get a visitor to say a pleasant word about something or somebody—but tried in vain. A number of people were referred to in the attempt to elicit at least a word of commendation or approval—but in every case the response was harsh, critical, unkindly, censorious, sometimes almost venomous. Many generous and worthy acts were mentioned, to see if some beautiful deed would not win a cordial and kindly word—but in every instance, something was suggested that took away from the apparent beauty or worthiness of the acts. This person sadly needed a pair of new glasses.
Far more than we know, does this matter of eyes or no eyes, make our world for us. We are in the midst of most glorious things all the while—but some of us see nothing and miss all the inspiration that would mean so much to us—if only our eyes were opened. We talk of a lost Paradise—but there is still a Paradise for those who can see it. George Macdonald says: "I suspect we shall find some day that the loss of the human paradise consists chiefly in the closing of the human eyes; that at least far more of it than people think remains about us still, only we are so filled with foolish desires and evil cares that we cannot see or hear, cannot even smell or taste—the pleasant things around us."
There is a little book called Eyes and No Eyes, which tells of two boys who one day went out for a walk together. When they came back, a friend asked one of them what he had seen. He said he had seen nothing. He had been traveling through dust and along rough paths—but he had not seen anything beautiful or interesting in all the two hours' walk. When the other boy was asked the same question, he replied with much enthusiasm, telling of a hundred beautiful things he had seen in his walk—in the fields and in the woods—flowers and plants and bits of beautiful landscape, birds and squirrels and rippling streams. The two boys had walked together over the same path, and while one had seen nothing to give him pleasure—the other came back with his mind full of lovely images and bright recollections. Both had looked on the same objects—but they had looked through different lenses!
There always are two classes of people among those who journey together—those with eyes which see and those who, having eyes, see nothing. There are many people who never see the stars, or the hills, or the blue sky, or the flowers, nor any beauty in plant or tree or living creature.
Many of us who see nothing lovely in the objects about us—wish we could see what others see. There is a way of learning to do it. We should train ourselves to make use of our eyes. Every child should be taught from its earliest youth to observe, to see beauty wherever beauty exists. This should be part of the education of young children. They are encouraged to look intently at all things about them, so that they can give an intelligent account of whatever they have seen. This training should be carried into all the life, so that we shall miss nothing of the profuse and wondrous loveliness, which is everywhere in our Father's world. The result of not using our eyes, is that by and by we have no eyes—the faculty which is not exercised, becomes atrophied.
Still more to be pitied than those who have eyes and see not, are those who see things distorted, through warped lenses, through untrue glasses. We should train ourselves to see only what is lovely. An old legend of Jesus tells that while the disciples one day turned away with loathing from the carcass of a dead dog by the wayside, the Master looked at it and said to the disciples, "What beautiful teeth the creature has!" Too many of us see only the things that are loathsome, and have no vision for anything that is winsome.
A lady took her visitor to a window to show her a view which to her, was very inspiring. The guest manifested almost disgust as she exclaimed that all she saw was an unusually fine lot of black chimneys and smoky back buildings. The genial hostess said, cheerfully, "Why, I never saw the chimneys and back building before. I saw only the hills yonder and that fringe of noble trees on the horizon!" This woman got far more out of life than her friend did, for she had eyes for the beauty and grandeur of the world about her—while the other saw only the things that were dreary and without beauty.
The same is true of the men and women about us, as well as of the scenes and conditions. It would add immeasurably to our pleasure in life—if we would train ourselves to look for whatever things are true, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, in the people about us—instead of for the blemishes and faults. If we wore the glasses of love and charity, it would be in this way that we would see everyone and everyone's work. What a change it would make for us—if we would some day put on these new glasses, and look at others through them!
The aspect of all life's events and experiences would also be changed, if we wore the right kind of glasses. To many people, life has nothing bright. It is made up chiefly of things which produce discontent, complaining and fault finding. We all know people who never have a really bright word to say about their own life and its circumstances. To them, everything seems wrong. They exaggerate their trials and see a calamity in every smallest mishap. They see nothing bright in any outlook. They enumerate their troubles and sorrows with glib tongue, and even when their joys and happiness are referred to, find flecks in them. If they could in some way change their glasses, so that they would see things in the light of Christian faith and trust—all things would be transformed for them.
What we all need, in order that we may see people and things as they are—is a heart of love. If we could see through Christ's eyes, everything would be attractive to our vision. We can get the new glasses, with their magical power, only by getting into our hearts, the mind which is in Christ Jesus—the mind of love, of patience, of trust, of joy, of peace.
It is true, that some people seem never to learn this part of the lesson of thoughtfulness. They have a genius for hurting others. They are continually saying things which give sting and pain, referring to unwelcome subjects and bringing up matters which tend to exasperate or irritate. They seem to walk with heavy boots among the most delicate flowers of feeling, as if they were treading on rocks. It is to be expected that we shall learn love's lessons better than this.
Thoughtfulness is one of the finest qualities in a well disciplined life. It regards the comfort and happiness of others before its own. In conversation it is always careful not to refer to things which would cause pain. It never alludes to a man's physical defects. It respects your sorrow and refrains from rudely touching your wound. Someone defined a gentleman as one who never by word or act gives pain to another. This is Christian love's ideal.
But the sensitive person also has a duty in the case—a duty of not showing hurt feeling too readily, of bearing his pain quietly, even if others are thoughtless. For, as gentle as we may be—it is practically impossible to avoid everything which may cause pain to a tender heart. The most thoughtful person will some time unintentionally speak a word which will hurt.
A noble spirit will learn to suffer from the thoughtlessness, even from the rudeness of others—and yet be still. No doubt extreme sensitiveness is a fault. The nerves lie so near the surface, that they are exposed to every touch. Sensitive people suffer greatly. One who is less delicately organized, gets more happiness out of life, for unpleasant, disagreeable things do not affect him so painfully.
The cause of sensitiveness is not always physical. Some people allow themselves to be hurt by every kind of expression which is not quite to their mind. They have refined tastes—and rudeness offends them. They are educated people—and they are pained by violations of the rules of grammar. They are accustomed to the conventional ways of polite society—and bitterly resent whatever to them seems to be vulgar. They have no patience with those whose manner or whose personality in any way offends them. Such people will never get much comfort from others—until they are cured in some way of their extreme sensitiveness.
There are two ways of meeting qualities and habits which pain us or would naturally irritate or vex us. We may be mastered by them—or we may get the mastery over them. No one can live long in this world and find all things precisely to his taste. We cannot bring all people to our way of thinking, or to our idea of the proprieties of life. If we would get along sweetly and happily with all whom we meet in our daily rounds—we shall have to do at least our share of the yielding and self denying. Instead of getting everybody to become agreeable and pleasing to us—we shall have to get over our fastidiousness, and our love will have to learn to be blind to many things which are not beautiful in others, and deaf to many things which naturally grate upon our ears and are offensive to our taste. We must be agreeable and sweet to others—whether others are exactly pleasing to us or not.
The law of love teaches us to look upon all men as our brothers, and to treat them with consideration. Love is the best cure for the sensitiveness which is offended by lack of culture or refinement in others. Some of the best people in the world have crude manners and are ignorant of the conventionalities of society. Love must be large enough to overlook all such things, and to see the man in back of the plain garb.
There is another kind of sensitiveness that is still more unreasonable. Men call it touchiness. It is like an exposed sore which is always being hurt. There are people who seem to be ever on the watch for slights, and they are always finding them, too, or imagining them. The utmost thoughtfulness cannot avoid saying things which wound them, for they exaggerate everything unpleasant and imagine unkindly intention, when none was dreamed of. They flush and show grieved feeling at the slightest questioning of their infallibility. If anyone expresses a different opinion from theirs on the subject—they at once resent it, become abrasive and hurt, making it a personal matter. They can never calmly discuss the pros and cons of a matter with another, for they will not tolerate any objection to their views, or any opinion which differs from theirs.
Such sensitiveness makes life hard, not less for one's friends—than for one's self. It indicates a most unwholesome spirit, anything but beautiful, far from being sweet and winning. Those who become aware of their weakness in this regard, should set to work at once to get rid of their unseemly burden and burdensomeness.
There are several considerations which may help in the cure of this weakness. One is the fact that exhibitions of hurt feeling are most inappropriate. When we see them in others—we know how they appear also in us. They are childish and unworthy of any one who is much past the years of infancy. We may excuse and tolerate touchiness in a very young child—but in a full grown person, it is altogether unpardonable. Proper self respect should make it impossible for anyone to permit such childish behavior. We should be ashamed of anything so unworthy, so unbeautiful in our disposition and behavior.
Another motive for the avoidance of such displays—is that they give pain to others. This is one of the infirmities which make friendship hard. One of the comforts of true friendship, is that we do not need to be always on our guard lest we give offence. A generous, confiding nature should not be pained by any treatment. Perfect love—loves unto the uttermost. It overlooks, and forgives, and never fails. One who is touch and ready to be hurt by the slightest allusion, or by any seeming neglect, makes entire freedom and confidence in friendship impossible.
Another help in getting rid of over sensitiveness is to remember that such a spirit is not Christian. It is in violation of the whole catalogue of qualities which are lovely. We cannot witness worthily for Christ—unless we master it. We cannot conceive of our Master as being touchy and sensitive.
In trying to overcome this infirmity, a good habit is to cultivate indifference to unpleasant things in others about us, to ignore their existence. When certain worthless fellows failed to show King Saul proper honor after his choice as king, we are told that "he held his peace." The meaning is that he was deaf to their insults. This is a good way to bear ourselves toward all unkindness—to ignore it, to pay no attention to it, to act as if it had not happened. A deaf man said he had compensation for his deafness, in the fact that there were so many silly and foolish things said which he did not have to hear. We shall save ourselves from much hurt feeling—if we will respond as if we were deaf!