Mirrors enable us to see indirectly what we cannot see directly. Without a mirror we cannot see our faces or backs the way we can see our feet or hands. But mirrors can be deceptive. Have you ever visited a house of mirrors? Some make your middle look fat, others make it look thin, and some exaggerate your facial features in grotesque ways. But even the best mirror deceives by making your right appear to be left and your left to be right.
Not all mirrors are made of glass and silver. Looking into a mirror places an image of your body in front of you. But why do we want to see this image? Because we want to know how we appear to others and exert some control over the image others form of us. And why do we care how others view us? Because we know that people never view an image without evaluating it as good, bad, ugly, beautiful, etc. Just as a physical mirror reflects our physical image, the eye of the other reflects a judgment about our worth as a person. And just as we rely on physical mirrors to reveal our physical appearance, we rely on the eyes of others to reveal our worth. For we can no more evaluate our worth without the judgments of others than we can see our faces without a mirror.
Why do we depend on the eye of the other to show us our worth? Can’t we just assert our value against all external judgments? The answer is simple: worth is a relative concept. It’s always a judgment about someone’s worth to someone else, and I cannot make myself worth something to someone else by asserting it. That judgment must be made by another. Sensing your own worth, then, is identical to sensing your worth to someone else. And this is why we are obsessed with how others view us, with what they think of us. We want these “mirrors” to show us what we wish to see, because our sense of worth depends on it.
But we also make value judgments about others, and this is another way we attempt to secure a good opinion of ourselves. We cannot simply assert our worth independently of the taken-for-granted order of rank and value in our society. Hence we despise those “below” us and envy those “above” us. We give others “the look” that condemns or we ourselves feel the deflating glance of judging eyes. And correspondingly, our mood swings from pride to shame depending on which group we are viewing. And there is no escape.
Entering a room full of people is like walking into a hall of mirrors. Each one distorts reality in a different way, and none reflects only the truth. The eye of the other is the devil’s mirror. It either shows you what you want to see or confronts you with what you fear. It never tells the truth.
The Book of James speaks of the word of God as the perfect mirror (James 1:23-25). If you look into it you will see yourself as God sees you. Paul speaks of Jesus Christ as the perfect image of God (Col. 1:15), the image into which we are being transformed (Col. 3:10). And in 2 Corinthians 3:18 Paul says this:
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Jesus is God’s mirror. It doesn’t mere reflect what is there. It changes you into its beautiful image! And what do we see when we look at him? We see that our true worth is measured by how much God loves us and that his love is limitless. God does not judge by human standards. We see that our destiny is to be recreated into the image of the Image of God.
From now on, when you enter society’s hall of mirrors or when you are tempted to glance into the devil’s mirror, turn away. Look instead into God’s mirror to see your true, glorious face.
Announcing: my book Christianity–Is it Really True? has been revised, given a new cover, and reprinted by Sulis International Publishing Company. It’s ideal for book clubs and discussion groups: