Mirrors can be fascinating things. They allow us to see ourselves or at least provide a reflection. What we see in great measure depends on us.
When I first moved to Tooele to pastor the church that what was then called First Assembly of God, there were two floor-to-ceiling mirrors in the foyer. I am sure the original intent was to create the illusion of a larger room within the limited space. But the mirrors served a much greater purpose over the years; they provided endless hours of stolen moments of entertainment.
Young girls smiled broadly and curtsied at the princess looking back at them. Or boys flexed their muscles or karate chopped invisible forces that apparently lurked near the stairwell that descended to the Sunday School rooms. There was also a certain amount of hair checking, skirt fixing and general appearance approval that seemed to be a natural response to seeing the two mirors.
The mirrors have long since been remodeled out of existencem but the reflection in a glass door brings about some similar behavior. So maybe it’s not just mirrors that are fascinating but our reflection; what we look like to other people, or what we think they see.
Since I have reached what the English delicately refer to as a “certain age,” I find myself avoiding mirrors. Unlike Count Dracula in the old vampire movies, I am not afraid my reflection will be captured, rather I am concerned about the reflection that will be captured.
I am not suggesting people shouldn’t care about how they look. Certainly, impressions that form basis for character assessment are made within seconds. A friend of mine years ago had his wedding marred when the person charged with officiating did not notice the dried tomato seeds that spread across his tie.
That lasting and unfortunate perception could have been eliminated by a brief look in the mirror, or a wet napkin. That being said, I do wonder sometimes about the amount of energy we expend with image management, or put another way, the amount of concern we have about how others view us.
What we perceive others think about us is made even more difficult by those who decide to tell us what they think. I don’t remember how old I was when I determined the gap in my mother’s wisdom that said: “Sticks and stones will break my bones but names (words) will never hurt me.” That bit of advice was nearly as misguided as “do as I say, not as I do.”
But I don’t have time to talk about that at this writing. Words and names I have discovered are terribly hurtful; the invisible scars may become visible in lifelong behaviors. So what can we do? We cannot control or manage what other people think or say. There is no way to avoid those wounds intentionally or thoughtlessly given.
For people of faith the solution is straightforward though perhaps not easily applied. As servants of Christ we have an audience of one. The only opinion that really matters is that of our Lord and Savior and He loves us unconditionally.
Bill Upton is chaplain of the Tooele City Police Department.