I looked in the rear-view mirror twice to be certain no one was in that lane. Turn signal on, I made my move across that dotted white line.
My husband had been looking in the same direction as I had, but he saw the car I had not seen. An angry horn blast added to my addled nerves as I swerved back to my side of the road.
“I never even saw that car. Must’ve been in my blind spot,” I muttered, hands shaking slightly on the wheel.
We all have them.
Not that we know what they are exactly.
Blind spots are elusive but we’ve made enough dangerous moves to know they’re out there. Shouldn’t we conclude then, that there are things other people see that we are blind to?
My husband, Scott, and I made a deal early on in our relationship: When safety is on the line, we can say anything to each other.
We made this pact when we started having babies. Safety was tantamount back then, especially when driving around in vehicles. For example, if I saw some moves he was making that didn’t seem safe, I could tell him so. And he wasn’t supposed to get defensive.
Conversely, if he thought I was driving too fast, even if I didn’t agree, he could say it without fearing my justifications.
Or so it went, in theory.
We tried to acknowledge areas where we could be in error, not seeing straight. We agreed to stay open to another perspective.
The question is: What are my blind spots?
I don’t know exactly. But some of my friends and family do. Hopefully, I’m open enough to invite honest revelations from someone who cares: Christine, you’re over the line, with eyes off the road, and headed the wrong direction on a one-way street.
“OK,” I say, “thanks for letting me know.” Or so it goes, in theory.
Three Ways To See It
We approach the intersection of what we see clearly versus what remains murky with three choices:
1. We Can Help Others: Identify and point out the blind spots that others have.
Have you ever dared to tell someone what you see that they do not?
A dear friend of mine, who will remain nameless, was what I call a ‘nay-sayer.’ He’d often respond negatively when I first presented an idea to him. I did not think he was aware of this negative habit.
For example, I once asked, “Do you think we should try putting the couch on that side of the room?”
“No,” he said, “it won’t look right there.”
“Well,” I suggested, “can we at least try it?”
Minutes later, he admitted, “Wow, that does look pretty good over there!”
“You know, you do that a lot, saying no automatically before opening up to a possibility,” I mentioned.
He did not like the remark but took it to heart. A few days later, he responded to something affirmatively instead of a knee-jerk no.
It worked! When I dared to point out his blind spot, my ‘nay-saying’ friend reined in his bad habit.
Mostly though, people do not respond well to these types of observations and instead, they feel judged, threatened, and downright defensive. Honestly, it’s rarely worth the risk to help others by pointing out their blind spots.
2. We Can Help Ourselves: Another choice is to just notice others’ blind spots and learn from them without attempting to correct their vision. Spotting other people’s headlong rush to self-destruction, or just their annoying habits, is easy and we may even have a plan to get them straightened out. But usually, we do better to keep our observations to ourselves.
For example, I had an acquaintance who related to her teenage daughter more like a friend than a mother. I was certain they were headed for some rough roads if she didn’t step in and act like a parent. However, I decided not to go poking my fingers into their business. As the years unfolded, the girl grew up and turned out just fine. They did not need me to set them on the right path.
In other good news, my angst and my judgment did cause me to take a look at my motivation and try to find my blind spot in that situation.
3. We Can Humble Ourselves: The best choice I know for finding blind spots is to admit there’s always more than meets the eye. When looking at others and ourselves, humility is key to breaking us out of our pride and insecurity, two-sides of the same prison cell.
If I look for my own log jam and give the benefit of the doubt to others–also known as compassion–I’m on my way to finding freedom.
Consider the Blind Spots
Why do we defend first before considering assertions? I have noticed how I leap to justify myself when someone questions my moves.
For example, a few months ago, my daughter challenged me about a certain attitude of mine that boiled to the surface:
Two high school boys approached us as we were leaving a store. They had a box of candy which they were selling to raise money for something at school. Or so they said.
I was immediately suspicious and just told them, no thanks. The store manager had come out by then and asked them to move away from his storefront. As we walked to the parking lot, I told my daughter they were probably just scamming us, not really raising money for their team but for themselves. Her jaw dropped and she asked me if I might be judging them because they were African-American boys.
My feathers ruffled, I said, “no, I just didn’t see any official looking stickers on the box or have any sense that they were legit. I’m not prejudiced!”
She suggested, however, that I could have been reacting to them based on their skin color without realizing it. “They did have an official-looking document explaining it, Mom. You just didn’t see it.” Blind spot. Ouch. I had to reconsider my reaction.
(I found out later that, before she went to where her car was parked, she found the two young men and apologized for how the store manager had treated them and she wished them the best in their endeavor. That’s my girl!)
Jesus told us to remove the plank in our own eye before trying to nab the speck of dust in someone else’s. He says I will be judged in the same way I judge others. Is that really what I want?
My judges won’t see all of the extenuating circumstances or hidden situations in my life. They’ll make projections and false accusations. This gives me pause–a long inhalation of introspection–before I dare go pointing and poking.
Jesus’ point, I believe, is to focus us on our humility–or lack thereof.
Humbling myself is a slow-motion scenario. It involves an interlude of reflection before reaction or projection. Check the mirrors. Check them again. Ask what my fellow-travelers see. Look over my shoulder and proceed with caution.
Cultivating this sort of honest accuracy in your self-assessment will help you to know where your talents and limits truly lie, saving you from embarrassment in some situations while ensuring greater success in others. Meanwhile, you will have an honest and accurate sense of which areas you truly need to improve.
We know blind spots can crush us. If we refuse to look where we’re going, examine bad habits, and listen to what people are trying to tell us, then we’re headed in the wrong direction.
Three Best Case Scenarios
Here’s what we should do when it comes to blind spots:
- Give the benefit of the doubt to those we’re tempted to correct. Assume we don’t see the entire picture.
- Stop being defensive when someone points something out to us. Consider their perspective.
- Humble ourselves by taking an honest look in the mirror. Be willing to really see what’s there.
Through meditation, introspection, journaling, and just journeying, we can find some of our own blind spots!
But don’t stop there. Especially when you’re already in the car and picking up speed.
Ask for help from another set of eyes. Invite others to tell you some things about you. Seek another perspective before you make a lane change. Who knows, maybe if you drop some of your defensive maneuvers, the people around you will do the same.
*A word about Self-Compassion: This article is not meant to be one more way of beating ourselves up or driving ourselves to do more. Self-compassion is at the heart of a beautiful life. The instruction to love others as we love ourselves implies that we love ourselves. It is not a given that we actually do. In fact, some of us despise ourselves and it shows in the way we live. If we start with love and acceptance of ourselves, we can then find the freedom to live an honest, open, humble, and joyful life! More on this in another article.
Check out my related article: Making Connections, Not Projections.