09 Sep The Unseen
Every time I spend time in the bush, I’m reminded of the same thing – there is so much that is unseen. We drive slowly along unpaved roads for hours, off the unbeaten track, to catch a glimpse of one of the big five, a shy bird or a tiny little mongoose. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to see the animals right up close – crossing the road or nibbling on the green leaves of the tree just off the gravel. We stop for a while, admire their size or the intricate detail of their patterned coat. We may even use the binocs to take a closer look, feeling like we’re connecting with them in some way.
But there is so much that is unseen. There are vast open plains beyond the first layer of bush that run along the roadside. On these plains sit prides of lion and herds of buffalo roam undisturbed. There are watering holes where elephant splash about and giraffe bend down uncomfortably to take a drink. They are there but they are unseen by us. Sometimes the animals are right in front of us and we miss them because the position of their head hid them as we gazed in that direction, or we were looking in the other direction, or we just blinked. We see what’s on the outside layers of those wide-open spaces, those animals that wonder closer to the roads that we drive on, in the right place at the right time. The others remain unseen.
This is much the same for us. Each of us have layers – some known and seen by others, some unseen by most. Our outlook and approach to how we live our lives, the decisions we make and our response to our circumstances all come from those inner layers which contain our deepest, most raw emotion, the layers which are moulded by the experiences of the days we’ve already lived. For most of us, these deep parts are known and seen by only a few – those people closest to us. Only a few are shown the parts of ourselves that are unpolished, dented and cracked – the parts that make us uniquely who we are, the parts that are the source of what makes us think and behave the way we do.
And yet, the world judges and forms opinions based on these outer layers. People decide you’re too quiet or over-protective or selfish, aloof, dramatic or outspoken without sight of the deep, unseen layers. A few years ago, I made a few pretty life-changing decisions in rather quick succession. Some people asked a few questions and wished me well. Others wanted to understand why I’d made my decisions because of how it affected their lives, rather than my own. Mostly, people just judged me – coming to their own conclusions about the decisions I’d made, to suit their version of what they thought about me and what they thought I should have done. It was really tough.
We do this so often. We see things only from one perspective – our own – without properly understanding that person or their circumstances. We have no sight of the watering holes and the dry riverbeds of their most inner being, but we feel we know what they should be doing or saying or how they should be behaving. It’s too easy to look at someone and make a quick judgment about them, about their life and their past. What someone shows the world is just the outer layer of the wilderness of their souls. Let’s give each other a little bit more grace. Let’s learn to respect and acknowledge the feelings and decisions of another. Let’s spread kindness, not judgment.