Recently I had a friend ask me to do the unthinkable. . . she asked me to tell her what she needs to improve about herself. Seriously?!?! This is not something I do well. Sure, I could tell YOU what she needs to do, but tell HER? To her face? So, instead, I’ve just decided to blog about what she needs to improve.
Being honest with one another is difficult. And intimidating. I don’t want to be rude. I don’t want to be unkind. I don’t want to be hurtful. But mostly, I don’t want to open myself up to return criticism. I might hear the truth and, well, EW.
This leads to me a little story about a friend’s son, Davin. He is 2. A few months ago I took his picture with my cell phone, then pulled up the photo to let him see himself.
I said, “Who’s that, Davin?”
“Dat baby,” he replied.
I said, “That’s you, Davin!”
To which he adamantly responded,
“Dat NOT me!”
I assured him it was, but his repeated, indignant response was still, “Dat NOT me!”
At first I thought it was pretty funny, but then I went home and stood in front of the mirror, cell phone in hand. I looked at myself as long as I could (you know, without frying my retinas). I muttered, "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the whatever whatever . . . " Then I held the phone up and took a picture of my reflection. Immediately I scrolled through my phone to locate said picture. IT WAS NOT THERE. All I could find was one of a woman, dressed like me, who looked vaguely like my mother. There was certainly not one of me looking the way I see myself. I tried it three more times, hoping for better luck. Luck was nowhere to be found.
A mirror rarely, if ever, depicts us as we encounter life - silly, contented, curious, angry - showing what we “really look like”. Instead, it returns a bland, slightly dull reflection. It does, however, reflect what is ACTUALLY there. Our eyes do not possess the same ability as our mirrors. Our eyes see what they want to see, and apparently they do not perceive reality, neither about appearance nor personality.
If you think back really hard to your senior year of high school English you might remember a Scottish poet named Robert Burns and a poem entitled, “To a Louse”. It’s pretty funny, actually. He writes a dozen or more stanzas about this proper church lady, thinking she is “all that and a bowl of haggis” and all the while he is watching the lice in her bonnet. The poem ends with the phrase (I’ll Americanize it),
“Oh would some Power the gift to give us,
To see ourselves as others see us.”
Since we rarely see ourselves as others see us, we have to rely on those who love us. Those who can be honest with us. Those who care about us enough to want us to be more than we are today.
This takes me back to the unthinkable. I have immense admiration for this friend’s request. It takes a lot of moxie to want people to be honest with you so you can improve. I hope I can honor her request with the same grace that she asked it.