One of the things I remember about being at my grandpa’s house was a magnifying glass that he kept on the table beside his chair. It was a heavy duty lens and I loved positioning it over different items and looking at them in larger-than-life form.
When you look at something under magnification it looks bigger than it really is. The magnified image is no longer congruent to real life because you’re seeing one thing larger than the other things around it. Magnifying something gives a warped sense of how something really is.
These results happen when we look at an object under the magnifying glass. They also happen when we look at relationships under a magnified lens.
The people we live with are imperfect human beings. They have faults. They make mistakes. They let us down on occasion. Because we live so closely with other human beings, it becomes very easy to look at their faults through a magnifying glass. I’ll even venture to say that someone–the god of this world–the enemy who wants to steal, divide, and destroy–helps to position the magnifying lens on the actions or attitudes that cause us the most hurt, disappointment, or rejection. (John 10:10 and I Peter 5:8)
Without realizing it, we move from believing the best about our spouse, our child, our relative, or our friend to believing the worst about them. With their faults maximized and their strengths minimized, we slowly close off our heart to them. Before we know it, a relational wall has been erected by our skewed perspective and unrealistic expectations (that they won’t make mistakes, that they should have made a different decision, etc).
That relational wall begins a process of separation in our heart and mind. It divides our loyalties and moves us away from the relationship rather than towards the relationship that means so much to us.
It’s not the big things that kill relationships. It’s often the little things that accumulate over time. Looking at faults through a magnifying glass is a little thing that can do damage over the long haul unless we do something about it.
Here are six ways to see others in a more balanced way:
1) Move the magnifying glass. Move your focus from what they do wrong to what they do right. If you’re finding yourself critical of or angry or disgusted with your spouse, you’ve likely had tunnel vision on their imperfections. Sit down and make a list of their strengths and what they contribute positively to the relationship.
2) Stay focused on what you love. What you focus on will expand. If you focus on what bothers you, all you will see are the things that tick you off. Keep your eyes on what you love so you fill your heart with love.
3) Resist the temptation. The enemy is cunning and will do his best to get your emotions tangled up and engaged. Once your emotions are engaged it becomes easier to see your spouse, your challenging child, your sister-in-law, or your friend as an enemy. This is the first step of dividing and destroying. Don’t take the bait!
4) Believe the best about your loved one. Resist the urge to make their mistake a personal offense towards you. Beware of statements you might make to yourself like, “If he really loved me he wouldn’t have done that,” or “She did that just to tick me off.” These kinds of statements are fertilizer to negative emotions.
5) Get perspective. Are you making a mountain out of a molehill? In the big scheme of things, is this really a big deal? When you measure this imperfection, mistake, or disappointment against all the good things about the person, you’ll quickly see that this situation isn’t worth the energy you’re giving it. You need spiritual perspective as well. Remind yourself who the real enemy is (Satan) and what his agenda is (to divide and destroy). Don’t let yourself get sucked into his distraction and deception.
6) Learn to move forward. Sometimes we need to give grace, forgive, and let it go. Sometimes we need to have a conversation with the person, but only after our emotions have calmed down. And sometimes we need to realize that our own pride or insecurity is the bigger issue here and its helpful to move the magnifying glass from our loved one to ourselves for a few convicting minutes. Don’t let it sit there for too long or you’ll move from conviction to condemnation in no time.
Magnifying glasses in relationships can do the same.
It all depends on what you’re looking at.
What about you? Where have you had your relational magnifying glass pointed at the wrong things? What are you making bigger than it needs to be?