Thursday, October 1, 2009

Seeing through our blind spots

By Jeanette Arnquist
Director of Community Services

Last week, during a visit to my ophthalmologist, I had my annual visual field test. I have glaucoma and this is standard procedure. For this test, basically I put my head in a box with one eye covered, stare straight ahead and press a clicker each time I see a dot of light flash. They tested my right eye first, and, as usual I was able to see almost all of the lights. Then they tested the left eye, which has much more damage. I know that I didn’t see as many lights or see them as frequently.

I hate to admit that there are things I can’t see, things I don’t get. I hate it when I do poorly on tests. I am a product of a culture that rewards being right and punishes being wrong. Denial is usually my first response.

In other areas of my life, there are things I can do to be able to see better. The first step for me is to admit that I have limitations and that I don’t see everything.

In his exegesis of the story of the rich man and Lazarus, Pope John Paul II identified the sin of the rich man as not having seen Lazarus when he lay at his gates. Sometimes I am too busy to see things. Sometimes I am too distracted. Sometimes I don’t want to see things because they are too painful or because if I see them, they will challenge my world view.

After I realize that I don’t see – after I have put aside my denial – then I begin to inventory the skills I have to see better.

I can examine my assumptions. For example, my parents raised me to assume that fresh fruits and vegetables are good for me. For the longest time, I assumed this as a hard and fast rule, and the fact that I often got really sick after eating fresh tomatoes or melons, well, that couldn’t be anything but random events. Finally, I discovered that I am actually allergic to those things.

I have other assumptions that I carry. When I hear an opinion about public policy, it is all too easy for me to just assume that it is either a lie or the truth. It is important for me to know that I have just made an assumption.

When I realize that I see things differently, I can ask clarifying questions. I can look for different perspectives than my own. I can engage in dialogue with people who express a different opinion. I can stop and review the situation. I can pray. I can be patient with myself (not easy.) I can let go of the goal of winning and chose the goal of understanding.

We live in a complex world where we all are, in fact, interconnected. What might produce a short term benefit for one group might damage another. How can the common good best be served?

Each day we hear different opinions about health care reform, immigration, the environment, war, poverty – and the list continues. Most of the time the idea of dialogue is not even considered and civility is abandoned. We see as much polarization among Catholics as we do in the House of Representatives. Our faith offers us values that go deeper than this and challenges us to “Love one another as I have loved you.”

What things do you have trouble seeing? Do you know what your assumptions are? What do you do when you find that you cannot see? How can your faith help you?

1 comment:

  1. Clarity... I couldn't agree more!

    The mission of the Church is to spread the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ. The Truth of the Good News is not always easy for society to accept, but it is not compassionate to soften Church doctrine to the point of leading others to sin and not leading to salvation.

    More clearly, these blogs can more specifically explain the Church's stands on political issues like Health Reform and how we as Catholics can never accept "reform" that makes abortion more accessible. And how the Church stands against same-sex marriage because it undermines God's design of the family.

    These blogs can also give us more concrete ideas of how to help immigrants, the poor, and other folks who need help.

    And most of all the Church can help us approach our brothers and sisters in compassion with the Truth. We must be relentless in loving others no matter how much we disagree. And our humble service should not compromise our unyielding belief in our absolute values given to us by Christ through the Church.

    By serving the community through loving, Gospel valued leadership, we serve God and the Church.


    Brian R. Joos


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