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January 21, 2015
Light for My Path
Seeing Others Truly
by Kathryn Grant

In my last column I wrote about how, with our limited mortal vision, we have a hard time seeing ourselves truly. Often we either overestimate or underestimate our capabilities.

If we have blind spots about ourselves, our blind spots are often worse regarding other people. We at least have some insight into our own thoughts, feelings, and motivations. But when it comes to others, we often have only outward appearances and actions to go by. And oh the wrong judgments we make, thinking all the time that we’re seeing others clearly.

In Letters to an American Lady, C. S. Lewis exclaims, “How deceptive the smooth surface of life is!” One way we misjudge others is to look at their “smooth surface” and conclude that they have an easier lot in life than ours — that they have both more blessings and fewer trials than we do.

Writing almost 600 years after Nephi came to the promised land, another Nephi, son of Nephi, lamented, “Oh, that I could have had my days in the days when my father Nephi first came out of the land of Jerusalem ... then were his people easy to be entreated, firm to keep the commandments of God, and slow to be led to do iniquity.” (Helaman 7:7)

Wait a second. That doesn’t quite sound like the way Nephi, son of Lehi, described things: “Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God,” he said of his brothers who tried to kill him (1 Nephi 17:45). At one point he was forced to flee for his life (2 Nephi 5:1-6).

Afterward, Jacob was compelled several times to speak plainly to the people regarding their sins (2 Nephi 9:47, Jacob 2:5). And within 40 years of leaving Jerusalem, they had “already had wars and contentions with their brethren.” (2 Nephi 5:35.)

The reality was no doubt a mix of both perspectives, but things “back then” probably seemed better to Nephi, son of Nephi, because he was seeing a “smooth surface” from a distance.

Another way we misjudge people is to attribute malice — intentional unkindness — to them when in reality they’re just defending themselves or sticking to what they feel is right. When someone does something we’re tempted to judge as malicious, Ron MacMillan suggests asking ourselves, “Why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person behave this way?”

The answer can change our perspective, because we tend not to think that way about someone who has slighted or offended us.

So what’s the solution to our blindness toward others? It’s the same as the solution for our self-blindness: turn to the Lord, the One who sees “things as they really are.” (Jacob 4:13). He entreats us, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” (John 7:24) The only way we can do this is by asking Him to help us see others as He sees them.

Most of all, we need to ask Him to help us love others as He loves them. “Pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love” — referring to charity, the pure love of Christ. (Moroni 7:48). Only when we see others as the Lord does, and love them as He does, can we see them truly.

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