Recently, on a YES Trip, we led a group of college students through a stretching and vulnerable activity. We first asked them to sit in pairs facing each other. Then, we gave each of them a piece of drawing paper and a pencil. For each of the participants, the task was to draw the person front of them. They would take turns drawing and being drawn. But…before they could pick up their pencil, we put one minute on the clock and instructed the “drawer” to just simply look at the person in front of them. For one whole minute, they were given an opportunity to open their eyes, and their hearts, and see. We didn’t give guidance. They were asked to do two things: 1- Be silent. 2- Look at your partner.
This experience proved to be intense and impactful for the group. We asked them how it felt to just look at the person in front of them. Some said that they found intentional ways to fill the time by tracing the person’s hairline or eyebrows and taking note of their features. Others said that the minute felt much longer because they were incredibly uncomfortable and they felt as if they were intruding on the person they were looking at. Similarly, the ones that were being looked at felt uncomfortable as well. They felt exposed and slightly afraid of what the person in front of them was seeing. After the activity, the group was asked: When was the last time you looked in the eyes of another person for even just a minute? No one could remember.
That one minute of looking at each other revealed so much to us. To be able to serve each other, we have to be willing to see the reality of another’s experience without being destroyed by it. There is a great amount of fear that needs to be faced when even taking the first step to see and be seen.
– When you allow yourself to be seen, you’re welcoming a potential array of results. You could be judged, dismissed, exposed, etc. On the other hand, you could be connected, loved, and healed in ways you never have before. The reward of healing connection comes with the risk of hurtful rejection.
– When you allow yourself to see, you are expressing your willingness to know the whole person you are welcoming. You are opening yourself up to great joy and pain, as you cannot plan or predict what you will see. You are willing to hear, to feel, and know the journey that this person has been on…without being scandalized by it. When you really see, your heart is both broken and filled.
99% of what we see in a person that we don’t understand is a sign of suffering. To be able to truly love as Jesus Christ loves, we must embrace this reality. I cannot see you and then, as a result, cast you aside because of your behavior and choices. If you invite me, I will seek to love as Jesus loved, continuing to see you and know you so that I can embrace you and walk with you towards healing.
Each of us has darkness in our hearts that we don’t want anyone to see. Acknowledging this enables us to run away from any tendency to judge another and, instead, to run towards each other without fear. Let us not be afraid to see and be seen, so that we may love and be loved.