Lori R. Keeton
“Can you look over this for me? I have been working on it for so long that I really need a fresh pair of eyes.”
I cannot tell you the number of times I have said that through the years to my mother, my classmates and eventually my colleagues.
Whenever they review a piece for me, they inevitably find something I missed. A comma that should be a period. An extra space. A missing word.
It’s maddening- especially for an English major.
It’s also quite strange how we can become so familiar with something that we literally see things that aren’t there and fail to see things that are.
And it’s even stranger that this phenomenon is not limited to reports or briefs or blog entries.
It applies to everything in our lives.
I was recently talking with a group of friends about small gestures of kindness that meant a lot to us. One insanely beautiful woman (who, thank God, is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside) shared with us that a stranger had stopped her and told her how nice she looked in the color she was wearing that day.
As she recounted this story, I could sense how genuinely appreciative she was for this person’s kind words. All I could think was “How on earth could someone telling you something so obvious be meaningful to you? Of course you look pretty in that color. You look pretty in EVERY color.”
However, after the conversation ended, I realized that I had never actually told her how pretty she looked on any particular occasion. Not because I did not notice or because I was jealous (which of course I am- but again, she has the whole nice thing going for her so you can’t feel THAT jealous) but because I assumed she already knew.
How often do we fail to tell someone something- how pretty they are, how sweet, how talented, how smart, how inspiring or what a good ___________________ (sibling, mother, aunt, doctor, student, friend, artist, listener, spouse) they are- because it is so apparent to us that we just assume they already know?
And how frequently do we forget to tell ourselves these very same things?
Ironically, we have a hard time seeing the good in ourselves, but we fail to tell others of the good we see in them because we assume they already know.
In a very real way, we have all been working on it- our lives that is- for so long that we sometimes need a fresh pair of eyes to tell us what is really there.
Whenever my mother reviews something I have written, she points out the missing commas and the misspelled words just as I have asked her to do- but she is also sure to tell me everything she likes about the piece. And that part of the conversation always seems to last a lot longer than the part about the errors.
As we embark on a new year, I encourage you to take on the challenge of being a fresh set of eyes for those you respect and care about. Give them the gift of telling them what is really there. And when you do, be sure to share everything you like about the piece- and allow yourself to be shown the same.
Happy New Year.