I realized this the other day as I was sitting in the waiting room for my physical therapy appointment, (in hopes that the strengthening exercises will stave off the need for knee surgery). Since everyone was required to wear a mask, all I could see were their eyes. And you know what? Eyes really are the windows to the soul.
Some historians credit the origin of this adage to Matthew 6: 22-23 which says,
The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness .…
And it is true. You can tell so much about a person just by looking into his or her eyes. Is she or he happy? Sad? Friendly? Shy? Worried? Kind? Bored? Disinterested? Loving? Excited?
One of my favorite book series is the Canadian author Louise Penny’s mystery novels. All of the characters are wonderfully developed but the one description Penny always inserts, because it is totally unexpected by the suspects, is a description of the main character’s, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, eyes––calm, confident and … kind. Those eyes are his primary character trait.
The eyes are the second most complicated organ in the body (the brain is the first) and convey the most complex of emotions, and for some (those who have lost the ability to speak) are the simplest form of communication.
We know this because often we find it hard to look into another’s eyes either out of guilt or fear––guilt because of what our own eyes will reveal or afraid of seeing what is in those other eyes (pain, rejection, hate, sometimes even love). I remember watching a segment of a morning news show about the homeless. The one constant that was expressed by those interviewed was that while people might look at them (though many didn’t even do that), no one would look them in the eye. Human connection often comes first through our eyes.
Another revelation that afternoon in the waiting room was, when all I could see was a person’s eyes, everyone was attractive. It was when the mask came off that I was suddenly detracted by the nose that was too big or the crooked teeth or sloping jaw. Suddenly, my connection turned to judgment.
I know I wrote not too long ago about the importance of listening, but I am suddenly convicted that we need also not to just look, but look into each others’ eyes, to truly see.
I realize I am taking the following verse completely out of context because it is referring to Jesus, but I believe we can still use it on a human to human level.
But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear (Matthew 13:16).