If you check through the endless channels on YouTube, you can find videos of a test that some folks did on animals. They placed a large mirror in the middle of their habitat and then left a camera running to see the reactions of the animals. Cheetahs, gorillas, and elephants all have a shot at the mirror. The cats approach from the side and attack, the gorillas from the front and attack. I don’t remember what exactly happened with the elephants, but each of the animals attacks the reflection because they think the reflection is another animal. They can’t recognize that it’s a reflection of themselves.
In fact, only a few animals can recognize that their reflection in a mirror is themselves, and even for those, that takes substantial time to develop. Recognizing ourselves in our reflection is one of the parts of our human consciousness that is elevated above animals.
I was recently talking with a young man who was explaining some of his pandemic time. He had a lot of time to think about his situation and the people and culture around him where he was living. He recalls becoming critical of the people and the attitudes and ways of acting. But then, he said, “Suddenly, I started to think that maybe I notice that because it’s in me. I started to ask, ‘How is that in me?’ And I started to be less depressed, less critical, and to know myself more.”
Our eyes can only see certain parts of our body, so a mirror is very helpful for seeing our entire body. Looking in the mirror to assess how we are and prepare for the day is a morning ritual for almost every modern person.
Likewise, our spiritual vision can only see our soul to a certain degree. It’s helpful to have a mirror, and thankfully God has given us a mirror. It’s the people that are around us, who we see and hear and interact with. The good, the bad, and ugly we see in them, is what is already in us. You see, if a good or bad characteristic we recognize in someone else weren’t already in us, we wouldn’t recognize it – we’d be confused by it. The fact that you recognize it, and it angers you or attracts you, means that it’s already in you. You’re looking into a mirror.
It’s worth taking a little time each day and looking into the spiritual mirror. To note the characteristics in people that attract you and repel you, and spend some time examining how those show up in your own actions. It’s freeing and uplifting and empowering.
So that in the course of the day, when someone does something that frustrates you, you can pause and think of the animals attacking the mirror.
Hey, that’s me!
“Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye.’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.” (Mt 7:3-5)