By Tom White
Many laughs have been generated by stories of people’s reactions to themselves when looking in the mirror. Sometimes the mirror becomes the instrument of affirmation, other times not. Sometimes the mirror is the judge whose ruling may be unduly harsh. Either way, the mirror is often the final arbiter if we are able to enjoy a good day or not, sometimes even a good life or not.
Certainly reflective devices have been around for thousands of years in one form or another. We cannot exactly pinpoint the beginning of judging just how a person should look, but archeological evidence points to prehistoric times as a clue. Our personal evolution in this regard has deep roots in an equally firm foundation. Likewise our developing capacity to render judgment, however harsh, has gone so far as to inhabit our very souls, or so it seems.
When asked candidly and confrontationally to stipulate what the greatest commandment was, Jesus, it appears, used a mirror of sorts to answer that challenge. Loving God, Yahweh, was a given, but he added, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We are told of the murmuring, even outright dissention, about this answer.
Apprehension seemed to grip those who found fault with Jesus’ answer. Love of self seems to have about it sins of pride and arrogance, and these are certainly not acceptable for anyone, right?
Jesus was not speaking of looking at ourselves as judges of others. Rather, Jesus is letting us realize that we will see our true selves reflected in the lives of those around us. We are to be thankful for the gift of life itself and to share it with God’s surrounding creation. The “mirror” was never about us, how we thought we looked or how others might think we look. Our mental health breathes more freely and is invigorated when we realize that our lives are never our own but are gifts for others, as well as their lives for us.
The mirror is to let me see through it in order to see other the person and love them just as we are. Jesus was not asking that we change how we look at ourselves so much as how we look upon another. The mirror reflects; it does not absorb.
We have been taught the benefits of good planning, whether it is family, education, business or perhaps even in matters of faith. The ever-present 5-year, financial, career, personal, academic, athletic, etc. – plans abound and are seen as essential in productively navigating what we call our lives. But then life happens.