Have you ever gone for a whole day or week without once looking into the eyes of the people you love? You know how it is – life is busy and full of stuff. Too much activity, coupled with minor (or major) resentments, and you can end up with long periods of avoiding looking into the soul of someone you care for.
It’s that neglect which allows for relationship breakdown in a myriad of unseen ways.
It is said that the eyes are the windows of the soul, and there’s a reason for that. When we avoid each other’s eyes, or choose to look away when looking at is too difficult, we lose the power of engagement with the other person. The sense of connection begins to break down and it’s easier to hold offences and nurse our little hurts, allowing them to fester and grow.
Avoiding eye contact is often unconscious, but it is a common sign of being displeased or embarrassed or awkward with whoever is in our personal space at the time. Somehow, even if we are talking as though there were no problem between us, as long as we don’t look directly into their eyes we make it clear that we have an issue with them without having to directly confront that issue. In other words, we make the other person pay while all the time maintaining an appearance of normality.
People avoid eye contact for a few different reasons. Sometimes it arises out of resentment and anger; the withholding of eye contact exhibits a refusal to accept the other person for who they are, maybe because of what they are doing. Another reason is guilt, shame or fear of being really ‘seen’ by others. Regardless of how outgoing and in command a person seems to be, they betray their feeling of inferiority by their inability to hold eye contact.
The ability to look another person in the eyes with peace, regardless of whether or not you are in agreement and regardless of whether one is subordinate to the other, works toward understanding and freedom in that relationship. It’s a tool through which unconditional acceptance is shown.
On the other hand, the withholding of approval or trust can be powerfully expressed just by keeping the eyes averted. It’s a cruel action requiring very little effort to inflict sometimes devastating impact on relationships.
Thinking this through made me think about my relationship with God, and how many times I chat away to Him as though everything was normal between us, when all the time my eyes are averted from His face because I have something to hide. It could be guilt, shame, fear, unforgiveness or any of a thousand other things, but if I just keep busy it’s easy to fool myself that things are ok between us when actually, they’re not.
Psalm 121:1,2 I will lift up my eyes to the hills; from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Where does our help come from? Not from the hills, but from the Lord. It’s only as we stop and lift our eyes up out of our circumstances and attitudes toward the Lord, that we begin to engage with Him fully. It’s then that the hidden things in our heart can be acknowledged and dealt with. After seven years of madness, it was when King Nebuchadnezzar ‘lifted up his eyes to heaven’ that his mind was restored to him. (Daniel 4:34) Some of us endure huge and ongoing battles in our minds over long periods of time, when we could be so easily helped by making eye contact with the God who made us.
Even when my actions are right, doing the stuff without the full on engagement of Him and me relating together over the task at hand, is more about performance than it is about relationship.
And then He calls me back… and I lift up my eyes to look into His and the world fades, with all its problems and pressures, and I remember again how beautiful He is as I see His heart and soul exposed to my gaze. It’s so easy really; why is it so difficult to remember to do.
I hope that you will find (make) the time to stop and look up into His eyes and in doing so, that you will be refreshed and restored for the journey. As you do this, you will find is easy to look into the eyes of those around you, accepting and loving them as you have been accepted and loved by your God.