orJesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him,
“Here is a true child of Israel.
There is no duplicity in him.”
Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” – John 1.47-48
Experiences of feeling misunderstood, ignored or even demeaned, remind us just how nice it is to feel known, welcomed and understood. Nathaniel was both grateful and shocked to be seen and known. Seeing and knowing are life-giving relational gifts to give and receive.
But true knowing or seeing the truth of another rarely just happens on its own. It requires some intentional work on our part. A conscious effort of listening and observing with empathy and intelligently considering what it might be like to be someone else other than yourself in any given situation or moment of experience, especially when you are wanting or needing something different from what another might be wanting or needing.
This famous scene between Jesus and Nathaniel reminds us of the important connection between seeing and knowing. Seeing is related to our mental perception. It’s easy to see others through our fearful or critical lens of perception. We can say that we love our neighbor, but in order to truly love another, especially someone who appears different or challenges our perception, it will require seeing them deeper than our ordinary lenses of judgement.
This is often hard to do, because our mental perception tends to be habitual and mechanical, that is to say, occurring without much conscious intention. This shows us that if our interior lens is smeared with negative emotions or stress, we probably won’t be able to see the truth of another and truly know them. What we will most likely see is more who we be – at least in that moment or state of consciousness – rather than who they truly are.
Notice how you see others. Notice how much you base your knowing on your seeing. Can you see something deeper? Can you know them deeper than the surface perceptions?
Similarly, who are you? What do people “see”? In what ways are you known? That there was no duplicity in Nathaniel is an indication for us to make efforts to lessen our fragmented falseness and request the grace to become more of an integrated, whole-being.
Such wholeness isn’t boring. It’s a beautiful gift to give yourself and others. We are often afraid of our fragmentation and either run away from it – or pretend it’s not there. Seeing is freeing. And wholeness arises little by little as we see our self more honestly and clearly.
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