I’ve accepted that I’m going to keep on making mistakes forever. The rest of the world will too. So my life will always be challenging, and the world will often be chaotic.
On the other hand, I’ve also come to realize that in any present moment I can always choose to see myself, others, and the world through spiritual eyes–peaceful, accepting eyes–and this small choice will change both my own reality and any reality “out there” in happy and often unknowable ways.
What does it mean, to see the world through spiritual eyes? It means to look for and see only the good. It means to let go of past mistakes, ours and everyone else’s, as well as future fears, and instead, focus, here and now, on the good that is right before us.
There’s a spiritual trick to all this, though. Whenever we react negatively toward ourselves and others—as we all often do, almost continuously, in fact, because we’re well-trained judgment machines—whenever we’re feeling judgmental and resistant, we can ask our favorite higher power to help us see that person or situation differently. If we’ll look, listen, and wait for our answer, we’ll soon see with new eyes, new sight.
Using this approach, I create every day, for myself and for others, a different, better reality than I could create alone.
As more and more people realize that acceptance of whatever and whoever we see is our primary work in this world, we can all relax. Instead of mirroring a fearful collective craziness, we’ll reflect the higher eternal truths and realities we all recognize during transcendent moments, when we know without question the love of God and the beauty and unity of his creation—however differently we explain such truth.
So, does seeing with new eyes mean we should we all fall into denial? Avoid looking at the bad stuff in our lives, and give up on changing or improving it? No. Asking for help in seeing things differently allows us to look more closely at all that is frightening and difficult in our lives—and this time, with acceptance and forgiveness. God will transform all of it into something useful and good.
Life will always bring up an endless stream of personal judgments and resistances begging for transformation. Although we’ve all made mistakes, none are so dark they can’t be made light if we so choose. All our relationships can be changed, all our sadness, our hard lessons turned to good purpose and peace.
Each of us is powerful far beyond anything we now believe. We’ve already shown ourselves powerful enough to project a whole world—a terrible one. And to see ourselves as hopeless cases. And everyone else as no better than we. Usually worse.
If we want something to be true, even if it’s some cruel reality we’ve settled on as the only kind we can rationally and honestly imagine, then soon enough we’ll find the evidence necessary to reinforce even such a sad belief system. We’ll no doubt react indignantly and angrily to the fearful world we’ve surrounded ourselves with, but we’ll continue to look for, reinforce, and initiate evidence for it, until eventually we make for ourselves not only a personal state of near-insanity, but a planetary madhouse as well.
Instead of resigning ourselves to chaos and despair, however, we can use our awesome creative power to turn things around. We can courageously drop our defenses and barriers to caring. We can turn the insanities of this world into happier realities by using our awesome power to see and create a different, better world for all.
I could not have imagined how lovable my former “enemies” could become—all my crosses-to bear, even my own useless ugly self—until I chose to see each person and each situation differently, with eyes that let the past go, let mistakes go, overlooked shortcomings and fear, and saw only good.
To be sure, I often forget to choose to see differently, moment-to-moment–that’s where the “I’ll never get anything right” part comes in…. Yes, I’ll keep on making mistakes, and add to the drama and confusion instead of transforming it—and so will everyone else. God had his reasons for making humans fallible, but he also made us capable of learning and loving.
When I look on others with loving, spiritual eyes, I give them an amazing gift—the gift of seeing themselves completely differently—more loving, more beautiful and good than they ever realized. My accepting vision accurately reflects back to them the truth about their deepest nature, which is no less than the most thoughtful present anyone can ever give to another human being.
We all wish we could receive only such loving gifts from one another. We appreciate it so much when others give us the benefit of the doubt, choose to see us in our best light and as our best-possible selves. What other kind of help could encourage us so much to become the best people we can be?
The gift of seeing our own strengths and goodness is not one we can easily give ourselves. It takes another person choosing to see us lovingly, to see our own selves at our best. Most often, we only know our love and power when it is reflected in the appreciation that is shining in the eyes of another, in response to our own similar gifts to them.
What a delightful moment-to-moment reality this can be: whenever we choose, we can see the best in others, see ourselves lovingly reflected in their eyes, and offer one another a new reality, a chance to see ourselves anew. Genuine mutual admiration societies are happy places, just as relationships based on fearful judgments are hotbeds only for more fear and sadness.
On an eternal scale, seeing everything spiritually is what we’re here for. God created each of our lives, and this wonderful planet, this universe, as his great gift to us, for our delight, but also for his. Our mission, should we decide to accept it, is to love his gift—our world, ourselves, each other—in each moment of eternity, asking his help to see his creations freshly each moment, through accepting, spiritual eyes.
We do not live in a “same-for-everyone” reality that is somehow “out there”—No. Instead, each of us uniquely reflects what’s “in here”— whatever belief systems we’ve chosen to embrace about how the world works. Yet, although we each experience our individual realities differently, eternal spiritual reality doesn’t change. The ultimate truths about what lasts eternally—God’s goodness and love for his creation—are truly beyond our mere human brains’ explanatory abilities. But even if we can’t explain it, we can experience eternal truth whenever we choose to.
Spiritual realities aren’t intuitively obvious in most day-to-day lives. We’re so used to our familiar, if less-than-pleasant, mundane realities that we overlook other perspectives. We're like goldfish swimming around and around in our bowls. We don’t even notice the water we're in because it’s always just sort of been there. We’re unwilling to create waves in our already turbulent inner lives by considering a radically different worldview.
If we’ve concluded that we’re pretty much alone in a meaningless universe, in competition with everyone else, forced to fight for every inch until we die, we can find all the evidence we need to continue to reinforce that belief system in everything we do, in everyone we meet, in everything we learn. As necessary, we’ll project what we believe onto our experiences, and act in ways that fulfill our prophecies.
Life becomes more and more difficult, interspersed with peaceful moments of refuge and transcendence when we intuit a world that makes more sense. But we keep turning back to what we know, or to what we think we know. We hang on to our tough-guy philosophies “for dear life,” because, no matter how hopeful alternative views may appear, no matter how hard our present lives are, we’re—sort of—used to them already. Our cold approach to life feels familiar, and what is familiar feels safer than launching into an unfamiliar world of ideas and relationships, into uncertain territory that turns our whole way of looking at life upside-down.
Even if we don’t have a lot in our lives right now, at least we have what we know. Or we sort of have what we think we know. Or at least, we don’t have what we don’t know…we think. And for that small shred of certainty, we’re willing to sacrifice all other possible alternative realities. Too exhausted and beaten down from upholding our chaotic, leaky thought systems to try anything new, we settle for “being right” about what we already think; we cling desperately to our little lifeboats of certainty in our personal storms.
Thinking our belief system the least-worst option, we “right”-eously keep choosing to see a chaotic world full of unacceptable players—ourselves included—as more predictable, reliable, more controllable than any as-yet unknown, different worldview might be. Somehow, someday—we hope—we’ll learn how to manage the mean world we’ve chosen. Someday, surely, we’ll get used to it, learn how to deal with it—once we’ve figured out the rules.
But there are no rules for a spiritually empty world, a loveless, meaningless void. Life sucks and then you die. As life’s difficulties multiply, it becomes ever more important to be right about the way we’ve always seen things, because as long as we can keep on pounding away at what we think we know, as long as we can keep on looking into the same dark corners for the cheese that isn’t there anymore, as long as we can keep piling up the evidence that says “I’m right”—only then will we feel we have some chance of muddling through at least until we die–which is all that anyone can do anyway, no matter how we look at things….
Yet, over the course of a lifetime . . . some people seem generally contented, happy, resilient, positive, cheerful, optimistic, while the rest of us become more and more miserable. Why is that?
Tough-minded pragmatic stoics have lots of plausible theories to explain this phenomenon, theories which fit semi-satisfactorily, if not cozily, into their unhappy belief systems.
But what if the differences in the lives of accepting people, and resistant, fearful people, arise in large part mostly from their different choices about what they want to see, about what reality they choose to create, in the world, in their relationships…?
We can all choose to undertake a completely new life-task, a purpose different than any we’ve chosen before. And that new choice of purpose will make all the difference. We can choose to see the world, ourselves, and others as acceptable and lovable, through spiritual eyes, asking for the help we need to see each moment’s challenges, one by one, differently.
Yes, we’ll keep on making stupid mistakes—forever—and everyone else will too. Because we’re human, we’ll often forget to ask for help, or forget to act on it. But seeing through visionary spiritual sight isn’t as difficult a change as you might think. God only requires from us a tiny bit of willingness. He will handle all the rest.
He’ll take each mistake we offer him, all our sad stuff, and transform it—all of it—into something useful and good. Someday, too, he’ll take the new improved world we’ve made, all the happier realities we’ve created, and work the same wonderful transformations with it. We can’t do everything that’s needed, powerful though we are, but we can do what we can do—our small parts—and leave the rest up to him.
When we choose to see through spiritual eyes, the whole world quite miraculously will become a happier, more peaceful place, both for ourselves and for everyone else. Each time we remember to ask to see whatever comes our way differently, we take the small necessary step to change both what's “in here” and “out there.” As we invite God to do his mysterious work, we change reality.
E.P. Harmon welcomes your comments!