I am currently taking a Principles and Practices in Substance Abuse Counseling class, and it hasn’t exactly been awe-inspiring or helped maintain the passion I once had for this field. But something last night helped me find that passion again. A woman presenting on a counseling method referred to as “Solution-Centered Therapy” had the entire class – all 12 of us – participate in an exercise. This exercise?
We chose someone to sit across from and we stared into each others eyes for five minutes.
As you can imagine, there was slight hesitation at the idea and spurts of giggles as it began. However, as each of us debriefed after, we found that we grew strangely comfortable; a physical release happened about three minutes in. The act of looking into the eyes of someone for that length of time was strangely comforting. Staring at my partner, Katie, I began to breathe more peacefully and was overcome with compassion. We said nothing to one another, but it felt like I could see her entire life through her eyes.
Doing this small exercise led me to a deeper understanding of the spiritual importance of our eyes. When it comes to judging others, Jesus reminds us to take the plank out of our own eye (Luke 6:42). In Psalm 119:37, David cries out to the Lord, “Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.” Our ears to hear and eyes to see are but gifts, a blessing, from God (Proverbs 20:12; Matthew 13:16). Lastly, Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:22, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.”
It should be no surprise that this practice of intentional, directive eye contact is so powerful. We are full of more than just our stories. In fact, we are overflowing landscapes through our eyes. Consider our eyes the filter by which our hearts and minds are geographically shaped.
There are two things I have taken away from last night:
1. Eye contact is important in conversation. I have seen this from my therapist and from friends, like Nicole Scott. When I am in conversation with these people, I feel known and loved by their eye contact alone. They let me know they are taking my words/feelings seriously. We have the power to cultivate an entire atmosphere by eye contact alone.
2. If Jesus says that our body – heart, soul, mind, physicality – is dependent on what is taken in by our eyes, we as Christians have a calling to take that seriously.
And, well, 3. It’s funny how five minutes of staring at someone I barely know taught me this.