May 01, 2013

In the Blink of an Eye

A woman walks into a room full of people and puts her superpower to use: she scans the room.

Guys may not know it, and the women I know don't discuss it, but every woman I've asked has this superpower. In a 5 second scan or less, we can tell you a scandalous amount of information about the people in that room. And none of it, I repeat, none of it, has to do with personality.

In the blink of an eye, I can tell you who the most popular woman/women are, which woman is likely wearing the priciest get-up, which women are uncomfortable, which woman a pack of guys is most likely to hit on, which woman the other women resent, and which women in the room are most likely to be "my" people.

Every woman does this.

Since we could see, we've trained to read facial expression, body posture, vocal tone, eye direction and every non-verbal cue you might think of to figure out another's mood--and where we fit in the social hierarchy. And every time we walk into a room, we hone that skill just a little bit more, adding to the hours we've spent. It's ridiculous, like a person who can't walk past a piano without sitting down to practice for at least fifteen minutes.

Doing this increases my focus on appearance. I know that. It often adds to my insecurities, underscoring wounds and scars I already have. I know that, too. Because relational awareness is built into my psyche and physiology, telling myself not to do it only makes me more aware of everything I shouldn't notice. Telling an addict that their problem is solved by not taking a drink or not doing bad habit X is true, but unhelpful. Jesus talked about this in a parable about a man who had a demon cast out; the space wasn't filled with anything new, and the demon (plus six of the demon's friends) came back and made life worse than it was before.

I think I'm supposed to redirect this superpower, not shut it off. Guys fight a turn-and-look response when an attractive woman walks by (I've encouraged guys to use it as an opportunity to pray for the woman when it happens). Telling myself not to scan a room would be exhausting, and I don't think it would help. Instead, I think I'll scan the room to help me learn which women are hurting, could use encouragement, would welcome a compliment, are feeling in need of a friend, fought all their inner demons to be in that room and are longing to be anywhere else.

In the blink of an eye, I might learn to see how God sees the people in front of me.

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