An Objectified Me | James DePreist

by Elouise

Thank you, James DePreist for this poem. It helps me see myself. My comments follow the poem.

An Objectified Me.
I need that myself
to help the other separate the viewer
and the viewed
which subjectivity’s mirror
for a short time
to wear my problem so that unburdened
my soul.

James DePreist, This Precipice Garden, p. 25
Published in 1986 by the University of Portland Press, Portland, Oregon

Jesus’ words in Luke 6:42 (NIV) are difficult to hear, much less live into.

How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Brother/Sister, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother or sister’s eye.

How can I attend to the plank or log Jesus says I have in my eye? I can’t even see myself clearly when there’s a tiny speck in my eye!

Every now and then a plank in my eye becomes visible—but usually not to me. Someone else sees it clearly and is brazen or courageous enough to call it to my attention.

James DePreist imagines another option. He needs someone to temporarily “wear” his problem so that he can get a clear look at it and decide what to do.

I think DePreist counts on the reality that we see others more clearly than we see ourselves. If he could just look at an ‘other’ wearing his problem, he might be able to correct the problem.

I like DePreist’s striking image. It makes sense, and gives me another way to think about Jesus’ saying.

Whether we can literally wear each other’s problems isn’t the point. The point is this: we need each other if we’re going to look at ourselves. Scripture is good. So is reflecting on the life of Jesus–who shows us what we are not and what we could be.

Yet we need more than this. God created us as interdependent beings. I can’t figure myself out in a vacuum or all by myself. I need other human beings, along with Scripture and reflection on Jesus’ life.

Sometimes I need a trusted friend willing to describe what she or he observes in me. Though I may not like or agree with what I hear, this invites me to get curious about myself.

Other times I need so-called enemies in whom I too often see the very things that plague me.

Of the two, I’d rather have a trusted friend. Nonetheless, most of the time it works the other way. People I perceive as different than I am, and whom I would like to change might be the best objective mirrors I have.

They may even be my friends, but in the moment of unwelcome truth I perceive them as strangers, foreign to me and in need of being changed–by me, of course.

Whether I like it or not, what I see clearly in someone else is often the tip of an iceberg. Not the tip of their iceberg, but the tip of mine! In fact, my iceberg may already be out in the open. Everyone else sees it; I insist it isn’t there or isn’t a problem

Is this good news? Sometimes an enemy becomes an unexpected ally. Instead of fighting back, he or she listens and asks questions. I relax a bit; I’ve been disarmed. Unburdened.

Other times a friend may see things I don’t yet see in myself, but am willing to consider. Again, I’ve been disarmed.

In the end, I can count on this: If I want to change, God will provide ample opportunities for me to examine that log in my eye. Whether I see it yet or not.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 October 2015