When was the last time you looked at the person you love?
I mean really.
I know you think you look at them.
But I doubt you do.
I want you to take the time to actually look at them. Really, truly, look.
Try this with your spouse, your child or one of your parents. Choose someone you love but feel conflicted by (that would be almost all of them, right?).
See the color of their eyes.
See the outline of their face, the contour of their jaw.
Look deep into their gaze.
See the ways they are thriving.
See the ways they are struggling.
See how hard they are trying.
See how desperately they want to be seen for who they are.
If you take the time to do this you will realize that you haven’t looked at them in a long time.
Hard things happen in relationships and when they do, you make decisions about people. Once you’ve made the decision it is tough for it to change. Your loved one goes into a category designated by you and they stay there, sometimes forever.
After someone has been in your life for a while, when you look at them you don’t see their individuality anymore. You see the decision that you made. You see the category that you put them in.
You may see the pain you believe they caused you.
You may see oddness or differences or the way they don’t agree with you.
You may see someone you believe is damaged.
You may see someone as an inconvenience, an irritation, a trouble maker.
You may see an embarrassment or someone you don’t feel that you can connect with.
Please understand that your categorization limits your relationship.
Even though you love them, you don’t see them.
Keeping them in this designated category hinders you from getting closer to them.
You think it keeps you from further dissatisfaction, but what it really does is keep you from real connection.
Here you are with a loved one that you stopped seeing for who they are ages ago.
You believe you know what you are going to see before you even look.
But there is a high probability that they are a different person now.
Even if part of them is the same, there is so much more to their story.
But you can’t know that unless you are willing to look.
Look to see how they may have changed.
Look for how much more depth there is than you have been willing to see.
What if you saw them for who they are right now? What might change in your relationship?
Because no category can encompass who someone is.
People are complex and multi-dimensional.
Doing something wrong doesn’t make them wrong as a person.
Behaving in a certain manner does not define them.
Bad stretches do not indicate a bad person.
Poor decisions are part of being human, not the mark of poor character.
Who a person is goes so much deeper than any of this.
If you look your loved one in the eye you will find things that amaze you.
You will find love and wants and needs.
You will find pain and vulnerability.
You will find that the label you gave them is a minuscule part of this person’s whole being–if it even still applies.
You will feel a strong desire to connect to this person differently. To treat them in a new and gentle way.
There are two situations in life when you look at people with nothing but love and adoration.
When you are falling in love and when a newborn baby comes into your life.
What if you used those eyes to look at someone you love today?
Would you be willing to try?
What could change if you looked ’em in the eye?
In order to change your life, you must first change your mind.
This post was inspired by a beautiful video that has been making the rounds this week. If you would like to see the amazing power of looking people in the eye, please take a few minutes to watch this. Tissues recommended: