Through the Looking Glass

A few days ago, I ran into someone I hadn’t seen for awhile, and we were chatting about a mutual acquaintance of ours from several years ago. I was very surprised to find that our memories of this person were dramatically different–a person that I had always seen as good, kind, and thoughtful was viewed by my friend as spiteful and vindictive.

I’ve taken some time to reflect on how our visions of the same person can be so dramatically different, and what I keep coming back to is a verse from the Bible–I Corinthians 13:12.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. King James Version

In ancient times, mirrors were very different from ours. In fact, not so very long ago at all, mirrors were simply shiny pieces of metal. When the metal became tarnished, the reflection was a shadow of the truth.

Unfortunately, that’s often the reality of how we see others. We are looking through darkened, soiled, or even broken glass, preventing us from seeing each other clearly. What we perceive to be truth is merely a shadow of the reality.

Even more unfortunate is the tendency to hide behind that broken or cloudy mirror, presenting only a portion of ourselves to others and hoping that they’ll never see the darkness below the surface.

The more I thought about my friend and our mutual acquaintance, the more I wondered how others view me. What reflection is it that I present to the world? Am I hoping that a dirty mirror will hide my weaknesses, my shames, and my inadequacies from others, or am I ready to be known?

More modern versions of the Bible help us to interpret the verse as meaning that while we cannot always see things clearly, there is a One who can. We may not see the truth in others (or ourselves) just yet, but there will come a time when all is made known.

The fact is that we can only somewhat influence how we are seen by others. Some people will intentionally view us through a “funhouse mirror”, distorting the reality to meet their own perceptions. No matter how pure an image they project, they will always see what they wish.

So, does that mean it’s okay to just give up?

Nope. Luke tells us differently in Luke 6:31.

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. King James Version

The best way to ensure that others are not seeing us through the glass “darkly” is to be a light unto the world. If I want to be seen by others in a certain way, then I must be that way. It doesn’t work to present a shadow and hope that everyone will see only that dim reflection–because somewhere, there’s someone who is seeing you clearly.

By the same token, I need to stop holding up my magnifying glass or funhouse mirror when I am regarding others, subjecting them to scrutiny that I would never be able to withstand myself.

I’d like to tell you that I’ve never been guilty of that–of looking at others through that dirty or distorted glass–but I think you see me clearly enough to know that I’d be lying to you.

I’m not sure why as humans we make so many assumptions that we know what lurks under the surface. The Bible’s pretty clear that no man is able to know another in that way (I Corinthians 2:11):

For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

One of our favorite worldly traditions is setting resolutions for ourselves, particularly in January for New Year’s. As I am a teacher, my personal “New Year” is about to begin, and this year, I am making my own set of resolutions:

  • I will stop assuming that the reflection I see is the summary of the whole. Just as we only see the tip of an iceberg emerging from the water, I must remember that I am not able to see and know the whole of another person. It takes time for the reflection to be made clear.
  • I will do a better job working to ensure that the image others see of me is not merely a reflection, but a representation of truth. We all fall short of the glory of God, of course, but that’s no excuse not to take a little extra effort to ensure that what we see in that mirror is pleasing to the eye.

And what about you? What do others see when they peer over your shoulder into your mirror? What do you need to do about that reflection?


MICKI CLARK is the author of Don’t Ask Me to Leave, a modern retelling of the Biblical story of Ruth and Naomi. The novel is available in both digital and print form on Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06X6J7QLZ

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