Beyond the Smudge

When by focusing on a spot, we forget the big picture of the value of each and every individual soul.
by Fr Nathan Miller LC | Source:

James stood there looking out the window. In the distance he could see the river flowing through the park. From his bedroom he could contemplate the children swinging on the playground swings. He liked watching families spread their picnic blankets on the weekends, and share sandwiches and lemonade on the green lawn under the shade of the age-old oaks. He enjoyed watching—from his high vantage point—their gestures and smiles, and sometimes an occasional laugh. Thousands of details of life could be seen even from a distance.

   Then James saw it. It wasn't even large. At first he hadn't even noticed it. But yes, there it was: a smudge on the window pane. It might have been a fly, or just a gnat, that had somehow gotten smeared onto the glass. Now that spot became the focus of James’ contemplating gaze. In an instant, this was all he could see. The thousands of details were suddenly lost in a blur. The park, now only in the background of his vision, could only barely be made out; and much less to be seen were now the sandwiches and smiles of the children squealing happily below as they swung back and forth.

   This is the image of the person who sees only the manifestations of others. This is what happens when we forget about the person, and only focus on what they wear, say or do. We lose focus; we no longer see the big picture.

   And on top of that, often that spot becomes what we look for when we meet them anew. We expect the same hot-headed reaction to break out any instant, or we are afraid to open ourselves because they might reject our love. So, focused on the spot on the glass, as it were, we live with a prejudice that we are unwilling to overcome. And instead of seeing beyond the smudge, on a deeper level, instead of trying to understand WHY they react passionately, or what CAUSES them to reject our love, we close up and shut off their chance of ever changing again. Because of one spot, we forget the big picture of the value of each and every individual soul.

   The Christian manner of loving always first tries to comprehend what is going on in the heart of the other. No, this doesn't mean we should disregard the negative reactions we see, but we must realize that they are precisely that, reactions. The way another acts is based on what is going on inside of them. The person who wants to love genuinely cannot remain stuck focused on the smudges.

   This doesn't mean that we are to turn a blind eye to the evil or weaknesses we see in others—their piercings, bursts of anger, rejection, rebellion—but rather to USE these things, by seeing through them and beyond them to the person, with all their feelings and sufferings. We choose then to look through the glass, but at the same time to keep our focus on the park below, not on the smudge.

   This manner of seeing others allows them to realize they are loved. And love makes it possible for them to improve.

   This is how Christ looks at you and me. It is a glance that cares, and therefore also makes a difference.

Fr. Nathan is editor of

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