Thursday, May 20, 2010
What do you "see"?
There is an old story told to children, that I love. It is supposedly from India and written a long time ago. It is the story about six or seven blind men (depending on the version you read). I am going to tell you the story as I know it. It is one of my favorite parables.
Seven blind men lived along time ago in a small village up in the mountains of India. They were all good friends and they spent their days discussing different things about the world they lived in. One day, someone in the village mentioned seeing an elephant traveling on the outskirts of the huts. All of the blind men immediately became animated. You see, none of them had ever "seen" an elephant before, so they asked to be taken to the elephant to find out what it was. One touched the side, another the tusk, another the tail, another the leg, another the trunk, another the ears, and another the knee. After their tour they got together to discuss what they had "seen."
Oh, an elephant is just like a wall, said the one who had touched it's side. No, it is like a rope, said another who had touched the tail. The third man proclaimed them both wrong and told them that the mighty elephant was like a column holding up a roof. (This was the man who touched the leg). The forth man (who touched the trunk) stated, that it was just like a snake! All wiggly and squirmy. The fifth man had felt the large open ear and stated that an elephant was just like a fan. The sixth man touched the long curling, sharp tusk and declared that the elephant must be a mighty hunter because it was shaped exactly like a spear! The seventh man fell against the wrinkled, gnarled knee and stated that the elephant was very like a tree.
All seven of the blind men "saw" a part that was really there. But with only their hands to guide them, they couldn't see the entire picture of what they were really looking at. These men went back to their village and argued long into the night over what an elephant really looked like. Each had his own opinion. Each one knew that he was right. And though they argued loud and long about it, and none of them were entirely right, still none could convince another that they were even partially wrong. Each man could feel a part of the elephant, and believe that they have the whole of the elephant, however in reality they only have a part of it, and not one of them could have the whole elephant.
Since we can see an elephant clearly, we know what each of the men described. We know that, even though they were each partially right, they were also completely wrong about what an elephant really looks like.
Our vision is more clear because we can see the whole picture. Our knowledge is not based on a little part.
We see each other much like the blind men saw the elephant. We see one piece, one part, one moment. I might see your church self, but not your mom self. I might see your anger, but not your kindness. You might see me in my Sunday best and compare yourself at your very worst. But we cannot see the whole of each other. It is hidden from our view.
The only one that can see the whole picture is our Heavenly Father. He does not judge us with a partial knowledge, or with only a part of what is in us. He judges us based on the entire picture. What is inside and also what is outside. He judges our intentions, our thoughts, our feelings, our past experiences, our present. In short, He is the only one that can possibly have the entire picture.
Before we are tempted to judge another, maybe we should ask ourselves if we aren't behaving just a little like the blind men "seeing" and elephant. Maybe, we should support each other a little more and judge each other (including ourselves) a little less.
I love the quote from Mother Teresa that says, "If you judge people, you have not time to love them."
In 1Samuel 16:7 we read, "But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward
appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart".
May each of us remember to judge a little less and love each other just a little bit more.