The drive home from celebrating Christmas 23 ago was forever etched into my mind. My wife and I had gone to celebrate the holiday with her side of the family in the Shenandoah Valley. We had a great time of opening presents, eating good food, and laughing a lot. We knew we had a two-hour drive back to Northern Virginia ahead of us, but that was before the snow started falling. When we finally got on the highway, the snow was coming down so hard that we could barely see what was right in front of us. Drivers who were not seeing clearly that night spun around in the middle of the road or got stuck in the median. And not seeing clearly that night made our two hour drive into a much longer, white-knuckled experience that I haven’t forgotten 23 years later.
You will find that not seeing clearly in your life can have dangerous consequences. If you don’t see things clearly or accurately, you will draw incorrect conclusions based on what you think you see.
Here are three unclear situations to watch out for.
1. Obstructed view
My first concert experience as a teenager was less than stellar. I didn’t know what the phrase “obstructed view” printed on the tickets meant. When we got to our seats, we found out the hard way. We only saw a portion of the stage, and we saw the band members only when they would come out on that side of the stage. As a result, our experience was not what it could have been.
It would have been better to ask before purchasing the tickets what “obstructed view” meant. It would have been better to go into that purchasing decision with eyes wide open. And it would have been better to ask the awkward question before it was too late.
You can get into awkward or dangerous situations if you do not ask the right questions beforehand. Whether it’s a job interview or a marriage proposal, having those uncomfortable conversations help you find out what you need to know in order to make a good decision. Otherwise, important information will be shielded from you, and you won’t see the situation as it really is. Not seeing clearly in those situations can cause you serious heartburn—or heartbreak.
2. Occluded view
Last summer four of my kids and I piled into a car around 11:00 p.m. August 20th and drove overnight to Belton, South Carolina. After fitfully trying to sleep a few hours through the sun rising, we finally got ourselves up that morning to join the others who had camped out the night before. And starting around 1:00 p.m. that afternoon, together we watched the unforgettable sight of a total solar eclipse.
There came a point during the eclipse where people put white blankets on the ground. They told us we would see “shadow bands” on the ground right before totality, and they said we would see them best on a white surface. Not knowing what to expect, we watched somewhat skeptically for the “shadow bands” to appear. What we saw amazed us: they looked like dark snakes undulating on the sheet. These strange sights appeared in front of our eyes just as the moon completely blocked the sun.
If you aren’t careful, there will be times when things will block you from seeing what you should see. Feelings of resentment can cause you to feel bitter against someone. Projecting fears into an unknown situation can rob you of the confidence you need at that time. And comparing yourself to someone else can give you a skewed view of your real worth. Not seeing clearly in those situations can prevent you from reacting appropriately.
3. Selective view
No doubt you have heard the story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Andersen. Two weavers convince the emperor that they will make him a new suit of clothes that will be invisible to anyone who lacks the mental capacity to hold their position. In reality, they do not make him any clothes at all. But when people don’t see the clothes, they think it is only they who can’t see the clothes. And so they pretend they can see the clothes, just so they won’t appear stupid or incompetent. When the emperor parades his new clothes in front of all of his subjects, only a little child will say the obvious—that he isn’t wearing anything at all.
There can be times that you may see only what you want to see. Others may come to you and tell you what’s going on, but you may say that they just don’t see what you see—when in reality, they are the ones who are seeing clearly. It is important to be willing to take counsel from people, even if it is not what you want to hear—because they may see what you don’t want to see. This can happen in professional settings, especially if you’re a boss who doesn’t like to listen to your subordinates. This can happen in your relationships, especially if your growing-up years didn’t provide a picture of what a good relationship looks like. Not seeing clearly can prevent you from making good choices at that time—because you have voluntarily blinded yourself from seeing the situation for what it is.
Make sure that you see what you should see. Don’t get stuck in an unclear situation with obstructed view, occluded view, or selective view. Or you may end up realizing that not seeing clearly can have some rather dangerous consequences.
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