Relational Color Blindness - Seeing Past the Past
Throughout my life, I’ve had eye issues, but the one I’m thankful I haven’t had is color blindness. Studies show that at least 8% of the population is affected by it. Personally, I’ve known people who are and who haven’t been able to drive because of it. Not knowing if a light is green or red would be an issue.
Tonight, the Mrs. and I went to grab our weekend Pei Wei meal. On the way into the restaurant, there was a new Honda CRV the same style as ours, but this one had a unique color; it looked almost flesh tone (light skinned). We both looked and commented on it because the color wasn’t one that we’d seen before. The thought hit me how the same car could look so different, and less appealing, with another color.
I didn’t really think much about it after we went inside, but after leaving and seeing the car again, I began to think about it more. Much like how the color of a car changes how we perceive the car (even though it's the same car), how we see people through what I'll call relational color blindness, based on our own prejudice, historical context, or personal memories, changes how we feel about them. Often, we base our opinion of someone’s trustworthiness, on how we see them through those color filters.
One may think I’m talking about racism because of the skin colored car, but I’m not. Yes, unfortunately, some do view others differently because the color of their skin, but that’s the obvious connection. What I'm thinking about is more personal, and on a deeper level.
When we’re children, we don’t have relational color blindness. We see everyone the same. It’s not until we’re exposed to the humanness around us, that the relational color blindness is developed. What relational color blindness am I thinking of? The one built from perceptions of another person through years of experiences living with them in our lives. Even more, the perceptions built from other’s opinions, stories, and memories of another person who hasn’t lived with us all our lives.
We all have relatives we feel we know because of the stories we’ve heard about them. Some of those relatives may be held in great honor because of a story of heroism or sacrifice. Others may be villainized because of a parent, relative, or friend who has only told their view of history that has been tainted by their personal bitterness. The result is relational color blindness keeping us from seeing who that person really was, or is, resulting in walls that may never come down only preventing a true relationship with them.
Children are the most victimized by these portrayed perceptions. Children whose parents divorced early and never really knew the estranged parent, and who instinctively trust their full-time parent, willingly accept it when they hear their mommy say, ‘Your biological father was an XYZ, and hurt us. You must never trust him’. Or, when they hear their daddy say, ‘Your mother never really loved you. She was just looking out for herself’. These types of statements can do irreparable harm creating relational color blindness of the other parent for life. The estranged parent may never be able to overcome it because that relational color blindness will always be there in the back of their child's mind.
We all have some sort of relational color blindness built by shared perceptions when we were young. I know I have, and it’s taken years for me to see past it in some cases. Now that I’m able to, relationships have been built where they weren’t before. I regret not knowing those blinders were there. The good news is that, as one of my areas of relational color blindness comes off, I become more aware of others still there making it easier to see past those as well.
So, tonight, if that’s you. If you have perceptions of an estranged loved one built upon years of hearing the negative, I want to encourage you to try and look beyond them. You might just find what you thought was real, was only what you could see, based on what you’ve been told. You may just find a new relationship where there wasn’t one. You may just find healing where there was hurt and love where there was loss…
Love always my friend,
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