One of the things about having children is you end up reliving experiences you hadn’t thought about in years. Sometimes this is a blessing — like when you get to re-watch those original “Star Wars” movies. And sometimes this is a curse — like when you have to essentially retake geometry.
One such experience is learning how to drive. The fits and starts of those early days behind the wheel typically don’t come to mind when you hop in the car to run an errand. Unless you have a child taking Driver’s Ed and then you suddenly have a driving expert sitting next to you. One who criticizes your every rolling stop and comments on your apparently lackadaisical use of the blinker.
Now I’ve blocked out most of my time in Driver’s Ed, but I particularly remember the conversation about the blind spot. Barry, our rather gruff, Brooklyn-bred instructor, seemed to spend an awful lot of time on it and so I knew that, in theory, there was a spot when changing lanes that you couldn’t really see using the mirrors alone. Though it seemed to me rather ridiculous that you couldn’t see a big van or truck that was right next to you, or at least sense it — by using The Force.
But all it took was driving on the highway for the first time and not completely turning around and hearing that bus lean on the horn to realize that, oh, so that’s the blind spot Barry was talking about. It’s not merely theoretical — and with all the angles involved, maybe geometry actually is useful.
But in time you come to learn that even beyond driving, we all have blind spots. Areas of our lives that we literally can’t see. They may have to do with family relationships or politics or our work life. They may be based on our upbringing or gender or race or nationality or faith tradition or socioeconomic class. But these blind spots can wreak havoc on those around us, even if they don’t particularly register with us. They’re easy enough to ignore — until we wind up bumping into something and causing a metaphorical wreck or negatively impacting the lives of those around us.
So what do we do about our own personal and communal blindspots? Well, we can be in relationship with those with differing perspectives or experiences. That’s really the best way to address them, which is why it’s so important to have conversations with those with whom we disagree or with those whose experiences differ from our own. When we end up only staying within the confines of our own tribe, it may be more comfortable, it may be more enjoyable, but it only broadens our blind spots, which ultimately diminishes both us and our respective communities.
Yes, it’s awkward to discover and acknowledge our blind spots. You have to crane your neck a bit and leave your comfort zone. You have to intentionally seek out new perspectives and work a bit harder to see. But the payoff is a fuller life; a more faithful life; a richer life. Which is precisely what the life of faith, regardless of tradition, beckons us towards.
There’s a reason that in the Christian faith Jesus is always giving sight to the blind. The miracle transcends the physical because the real point is that as our perspective is changed and broadened we begin to see those on the margins of society; fellow children of God to whom we might otherwise be blind.
In the end, we need assistance in the form of others to help us see our blind spots — we can’t do it alone. I encourage you to be open to other viewpoints, to recognize that you don’t have all the answers, and to allow the illumination of new perspective to shine in your heart and soul.
— The Rev. Tim Schenck serves as Rector of the Episcopal Parish of St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, MA. Visit his blog “Clergy Confidential” at clergyconfidential.com or follow him on Twitter @FatherTim.