When I was a kid, comic books had ads for glasses that could supposedly see through clothes. The glasses were called “X-Ray Specs”. Of course, the glasses didn’t really work. They were intended to embarrass people by making them think you could see through their clothes. As a young boy I didn’t know that. I saw the advertisements of people wearing X-Ray Specs and wanted the glasses desperately. It would do no good to pretend that I wanted them for noble purposes like medical research.
Many lonely people do not share their problems because they have an image of others putting on X-Ray Specs and piercing into their hidden secrets. They fear being undressed by a listener who pierces into their secrets and holds up an embarrassing insight—much like a magician producing coins from the ear of an embarrassed volunteer.
Unlike X-Ray Specs, the eyes of compassion do not look through other people but takes them at face value. Such non-judgmental attention has a healing property. After all, we all have a craving for attention. When that need is unmet our hearts dry out to survive in the desert. Most people get used to not being loved enough and go on with their lives. They do not know where their anger or depression comes from.
Listening to another without judgment is like exposing a flower to sunlight. Listening with compassion brings out the beauty that has been hidden in the dry shade. And when we listen with compassion, the flower also gets the moisture it needs to open itself. When flowers seem dry and ugly we know to give them light and water. Spiritual teacher have taught that the same wisdom applies to hearts.
Jim Rigby is a Presbyterian Minister at St. Andrews Church in Austin Texas. In 2007, Jim was named “Texas Public Citizen of the Year” by National Association of Social Workers for his work on gender, economic, and racial issues. Jim has written for Huffington Post, Common Dreams, and many other sites, and his focus is on creating a deeper discussion of the relationship between religion and politics. Is it possible to affirm our different religious (and nonreligious) worldviews in ways that do not lead to intolerance and oppression, or does religion lead inevitably to superstition and sectarian violence? Can we affirm the core values of our own group, and yet, still be good citizens of the world? It is an open question. Jim argues that it is possible, if all religions are willing to go through radical reformations to align themselves to the best science available, to learn to honor artistic expression however different, and to serve universal human rights. Read more from Jim at his blog.