For the last couple years, I’ve had to accept that my near vision needs a little support. Prior to that, I may have been a little cocky that I didn’t need that support when so many other people in my world did. I know, I know—it’s ridiculous because I realize I have absolutely no control over how well my eyes work.
I don’t always have a logical approach to things, but love me anyway, okay?
Lately, it appears that my “support” may need to be a little stronger. On the one hand, it can be kind of nice because when I look in the mirror without my glasses, I have fewer wrinkles. The house takes longer to get dusty, too.
But if I want to see truth…then I need some stronger magnification.
My mom has this magnifying mirror that is the Hubble telescope of magnifying mirrors. It practically shows you your cellular structure. Pores become craters. Scars are angrier. God forbid you have a blemish. The first time I ever looked into it, I was shocked. Seeing myself that closely revealed things I never knew were going on.
It wasn’t exactly a feel-good.
While it may be helpful to get an especially good look at something that needs attention, do I really want to see myself that closely? It reminds me of the line in the classic movie Tootsie, when the producer asks the camera operator, “I’d like to make her look a little more attractive, how far can you pull back?”
“How do you feel about Cleveland?” the cameraman replies.
Looking into that ultra-powerful magnifying mirror made me want to head to Cleveland, too.
The same reality exists for personal introspection. Seeing the “clearer” you is often hard to accept. Like looking in that mirror at what appears to be a little pimple—and then seeing that up close, it’s much worse than you thought. It’s uglier. Harder to deal with. Harder to admit.
How close is close enough?
Though “ignorance is bliss” is a well-known cliché, we all know that it’s rarely true. (Unless it’s something like not seeing someone who’s been picking his nose and eating chips out of the same bowl you’ve been eating from. Then I’m pretty sure not knowing is better since the “dip” has already been consumed.)
Living a life unaware isn’t really living. We need to look inside ourselves and see what’s making us tick because it not only helps us know ourselves better but equips us to have healthier relationships with one another. And that’s kind of a big deal.
But is there such a thing as examining ourselves too closely? Does Hubble-telescoping our souls always make for a positive outcome?
Not without grace.
Not only God’s grace, but our own. God’s grace is already a gift to us, free for the taking. It’s the personal grace that can be elusive.
If you look closely within only to beat yourself up for your flaws and faults, then the end result will be the same as that unforgiving magnifying mirror.
You have to give yourself a little Cleveland.
I don’t mean leaving those flaws and faults ignored but accepting that we are imperfect, and realizing that giving yourself grace allows you to move past the “beat up” phase and into the “show up” phase.
If you let yourself stay mired in unforgiving self-judgment, you won’t be able to show up because you’ll be too busy holding yourself back.
Unfortunately, there is no switch to flip on or off when it comes to making this kind of change—at least not for me. I’m still a work in progress trying to figure all this out.
I know that if I had a friend who was an exact replica of me and I knew all her inner workings, I would have no problem giving her any and all the grace she needed. But when that “replica” is staring back at me in the mirror? I’m damn stingy.
Why? Well, as my good friend Winston Churchill said, “It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” (Disclaimer: I wasn’t actually friends with Churchill, and he wasn’t talking about personal grace here. It was about Russia, which is slightly different.)
So is closer always better?
I think it’s about finding the balance between examining closely enough to see truth without getting so close that no grace is allowed. Often that balance is hard to strike.
Maybe in a nutshell it goes something like this: “I suck, but I’m trying, so love me anyway.”
I just may have to call the bumper sticker people. That one’s a keeper.