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Tunnel vision

By Melissa Young

I read last week about Elder Scott’s watercolors being displayed in Salt Lake during the holiday season. As I scrolled through the images of his paintings, several thoughts ran through my mind. The first was that I hadn’t realized that I’d viewed him with tunnel vision until his artwork took him out of that tunnel. It gave him more than a voice–it gave him color. It gave me a glimpse into the mundane but personally extraordinary things that have meaning for him: a barn, a tree, a boy. I could see a bit about where he’s been and what struck him enough to commit it to paper.

I found myself wondering how many times (oh, how many) I see people with limited perspective and how I can break myself of that habit. It’s just so easy to put people into tunnels and not put forth the effort necessary to see them as they truly are.

It takes time and energy–two commodities that are pretty tightly grasped–but the few times I’ve made the effort, it’s been more than worth it. Even when all I’ve done is simply clicked through a few pictures.

Tell me about a time when your vision of someone has been expanded and what it was that helped you see.

p.s. there are more pictures available at mormontimes.com but I had a hard time getting them to load

About Melissa Young

(Emerita) is a native of Utah and lives in Cache Valley, Utah, with her husband and three of her four children in their emptying nest. She has an MA in TESOL from Brigham Young University and currently volunteers with the English Learning Center.

16 thoughts on “Tunnel vision”

  1. I was honestly so surprised to see his paintings. I didn't know he painted at all! But they were lovely, and it did help me expand my view.

    I find I'm constantly being nudged to expand my view. And sometimes it's not a gentle nudge. Maybe someday I'll learn my lesson.

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  2. There was a woman in my ward I did not get along with. We learned to keep our distance and lived happily in the same ward for many years, always keeping our distance.

    When my family started the process of moving out of state my husband went ahead to start work while I waited for the house to sell with the kids. Weeks turned into months and I got stir crazy. This distant woman from my ward invited the kids and I to dinner when her husband was out of town. In desperation I said yes. It was a wonderful evening! She made a yummy kid friendly dinner, then we went to a creek near her home where we all played like kids for hours.

    Having that dinner with her taught me to keep an open view. I missed what could have been a wonderful friendship for all those years because she and I didn't see eye to eye on minor issues. I now try to find something in common with everyone. There are still people I don't click with, but if I talk to them long enough we'll find a connection.

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  3. I think the most limited view I've ever had on anyone in my life was that of myself. It began as a small child, and I gradually came to accept the opinions of others, who didn't have my best interests, as reality. I think many of us struggle to gain an accurate sense of self, but it is worth the struggle. I am finally enjoying not only getting to know my true self and my capabilities, interests, and talents, but am also able to better see and appreciate those around me for who they are.

    Taking the blinders off can sure a long process! ♥

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  4. Thanks for a beautiful post, Melissa. Just this morning Shelah and I were talking about the stereotypical Mormon woman and even though we have this idea of this large group of silly women, every time we get to know someone that stereotype just disappears. We are all so much different up close.

    Hmm, hoping that comment made sense!

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  5. Another beautiful post. Thank you for sharing this. I too was surprised by Elder Scott's hidden talent. I'm thankful that he decided to share it with the church. There have been many of his talks that have been an answer to prayer. As you said this allows us to see him in a different light.

    It got me to thinking of a time when I had this happen. I remember when I was first married my mother in law probably didn't have the best idea of who I was. My husband had been engaged the previous summer and he broke it off so there was some underlying issues. After our marriage, she graciously offered to have us come weekly from our little apartment to do laundry at her house. She also served us dinner. As poor married college students it was very appreciated! During those evenings I spent at her house, I learned to love her and she learned to love me. We found out we had much in common and enjoyed each others company. I will always be grateful for her desire to get to know me. Without that experience I know our relationship would be much different.

    Sometimes I feel at church that we are so busy to really get to know someone. This makes it difficult to get to know people for who they really are. I've lived in my current ward for over 10 years. I've been scanning the chapel during sacrament meeting and thinking about how many of these sisters I really know. It's only a handful because I've spend many of those years in Primary. It's motivated me to join the ward choir to get to know some of these women better. I've gotten to know so many wonderful women. One of them is a recent convert and I'm so grateful to know her as a friend. It is a been such a blessing to stretch my boarders and try to tear off those blinders. Like other comments have said it isn't easy but when we try it can make all the difference.

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  6. I was first-time pregnant when we moved into our current ward 17 years ago. Since it was my first time, I didn't understand that pregnancy was the reason everyone and everything just made me SICK! In fact, they all STANK! Fortunately, the first trimester ended, and I realized all the stinking was in my own nose. Also in that sewage treatment plant down the street…

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  7. Thanks for giving us a glimpse out of the tunnel, Melissa. The paintings are lovely, especially with the notes about what they mean to him.

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  8. Seriously, the first thing I thought when I saw this article was, "Wait–he paints?" Doesn't seem like apostles are actual people with actual interests and hobbies and talents.

    The biggest change in perspective I've experienced is realizing that I don't exist in other people's minds–I exist in and of myself.

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  9. I have been thinking about this a lot the last few days. I had one of the worst experiences of my life on Sunday. A woman in my ward berated me for a good half hour about how I have no right to teach or share my experiences because they aren't that bad. How, I have everything. And I just can't possibly know anything about anything, because my life is perfect. REALLY. You have got to be kidding me. She doesn't know me, obviously. It has really made me take a step back and look at how I must come across. It hurt. A lot. I'm not quite sure what to do.

    I try to get to know people. I hope I am open, and able to see others for who they are. I love people. I love getting to see what makes others tick. We are all like onions, with so many layers. I wish we could see what lies underneath, and know of the talents, joys, hopes that people around us have, so that maybe we could help others on their journey, and they can help us.

    I have a good friend who is an artist. I didn't really "get" this person's art, until I got to know them better. Now I "see" what they are trying to get across. What they are thinking. And I have grown to love their art, and style.

    It is interesting, that the more we get to know someone, the more we learn to appreciate the things they are interested in too. I guess we, as human beings, just need to slow down, look around, and take the time to get to know each other better. Think of what a wonderful world this could be…

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  10. She-bop, if you will please forgive an unsolicited comment, I've come to understand in my heart, more and more (and it's taken me just shy of 40 years to really internalize this), that the way we treat each other and interact with each other, is really more a reflection of how we feel about ourselves, than an accurate rendering of another person's character, etc. Your accuser spent 1/2 berating you, and at the same time, revealing her own character.

    I spend more time considering my own charity (or lack thereof), when I'm tempted to criticize someone else. So take heart–your unpleasant experience was really about her, and not you. In fact, I think we can only truly obey the 2nd commandment, when we have a really firm testimony of the first, and the reciprocal relationship inherent in it.

    Best wishes!

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  11. I'm still mulling over the phrase "mundane but personally extraordinary." Beautiful thought, that. I think it describes my life sometimes.

    My husband passed away 18 years ago, when we were in those difficult early years of marriage. I struggled with my feelings about him for a long time and felt a lot of guilt. But as I mature, and particularly as I watch our son mature, my vision of my husband has expanded. I catch a glimpse of where he was in his life at the time and begin to see a vision of the man he would have become. That expanded vision has been such a gift.

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  12. Lovely post and comments. I, too, have felt like I have been coming out of a tunnel in my view of myself.

    And I think a lot of that has had to do with blogging, both writing my own and reading others. Something about being more aware of others thoughts, feelings & experiences has helped me be a more compassionate person.

    Boyd K. Packer paints birds, of I remember right. And I felt the same surprise on hearing that as some of you have expressed. I also went with my cousin to Marvin J. Ashton's cabin in Midway that my cousin had decorated–and found out he was a real person (but I didn't meet him, just saw the stuff of his life).

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  13. I saw a video on new.lds.org, in which Elder Bednar was talking about what it was like to be an apostle. The interviewer asked him how his role as an educator has affected him as an apostle.

    His response intrigued me. He said he doesn't want to be an educator who happens to be an apostle, instead he'd rather be an apostle who used to be an educator.

    So, while it surprises us sometimes when we catch a glimpse of their more personal sides, if Elder Bednar's opinion is indicative of the other apostles, the fact that we see them as apostles first is evidence of their success.

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  14. I remember responding almost identically when I learned that Elder Packer also is an artist. I first saw photos of his work in his biography (which was published nearly 15 years ago) and was so (pleasantly) surprised.

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  15. Sadly, I've had the experience twice lately of having my vision of someone expanded at their funerals, when I found out amazing things about who they were that I never knew. How I wish I had taken the time to look beyond what I was seeing on the surface to the person their dearest friends and family knew.

    One woman that I knew for years shared an avid interest of mine, and I had never known it. Despite many conversations and interactions, I had not seen beyond the surface (which was dominated by her chronic illness) to the person she was before poor health made her give up some of the things she loved.

    I am now actively trying not to be distracted from a person's spirit and experiences by his or her external presentation, no matter how dominant it may be.

    =)

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