Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. -Psalm 19:12
I walk in the local mall for exercise several times a week. I purposely avoid weekends and hours when the mall is likely to be crowded because, while I am not a racewalker, I do like to keep up a steady pace as opposed to stopping, starting and inching and this is difficult to achieve even when there are few people around. I am aware that most people who have come to the mall are not there to pursue physical fitness, they are there to enjoy the mall experience, and meandering is part of that experience. I try to hold onto that thought as I walk, but I have to be honest, people are obnoxiously oblivious!
Take the family of six who stretch across the entire walkway, strolling at a snail’s pace, sometimes coming, unexpectedly, to a complete stop, nearly causing a pileup. Usually I simply veer through the center section, inhabited by kiosks selling fidget spinners, cosmetics and the like, to get to the lane of shoppers on the other side. However, I am just as likely, then, to encounter someone who is not looking where he is walking, much less where others are walking in relation to him, and I must, again, deftly avoid collision.
Mall walking is like driving, only with absolutely no rules. You can walk in any direction on any side of the walkway. You never feel obliged to look over your shoulder to be sure the pathway is clear when zigzagging or drifting from side to side. Not only is stopping at will allowed, but so is backing into oncoming foot traffic without a second thought, especially with a stroller.
My mall has an ever so slight incline heading one direction and a decline on the return trip. This necessitates choosing whether to climb a few stairs or use the ramp. I prefer the ramp, so I do not waver, but many are not so decisive. I must always be prepared for those who change their minds at the last second, swerving into my path without a glance in my direction. Those ramps also tend to be a magnet for children who like to climb and swing on the railings while their parents are chatting away with no awareness, blocking the entrance and/or exit to the ramp.
What amazes me is that no one seems to feel any obligation to apologize for inconveniencing anyone else with his or her thoughtlessness, unless or until someone is actually hurt, and even then, because no one was paying attention, there is often disagreement as to who was at fault. It’s a jungle!
Just in case you were wondering, I am in no way saying that I am any less guilty than others of these infractions I’m describing, or that I’m more conscientious about paying attention to how my walking patterns, or lack thereof, effect the people around me. I am equally oblivious.
This brings me to my point. The mall is not so different from every other aspect of our lives. We often barrel mindlessly, focused on our own agendas. We sometimes run over people or cut them off without really noticing. From time to time we just stop, not even seeing the pileup we have caused. We block or hinder the progress of others. We don’t always look where we are going, possibly because we are looking over our shoulders, not at the way ahead. We wound others with our thoughtlessness and may not acknowledge it or believe that it was our fault. We are, in short, blind.
Psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham created a useful psychological model, which they dubbed Johari’s Window. Picture a typical four paned window. The first quadrant, known as the Open Area, represents what both you and others know about you. The next represents what others know about you, but you do not know about yourself, called the Blind Area. Then, there is the Hidden Area, which is what only you know about yourself. Finally, there is the Unknown Area, which are those things about you that, I would say, no one knows but God. The Blind area is the one that bothers me the most. I am not comfortable at all with the idea that you are aware of potential flaws in me of which I am not aware. I do, however, feel rather smug at the thought of knowing yours.
Here’s the thing, no matter how hard we might try to be good enough, even if it were possible to conquer the things we know we need to work on, there is also this entire other area where we are completely oblivious. Unfortunately, under the Law, we don’t get a pass for oblivion.
It’s okay, though. God is not surprised. He knows each one of us far better than we know each other or ourselves. He knows our helplessness and our blindness and he didn’t simply excuse it, he provided for it. He sent his Son who was infinitely aware of himself and how his words and actions affected everyone around him. Christ is the only one who ever lived a fully conscious, aware and sensitive life. Because of his death on the cross for us, he is able to credit that life to us and to forgive us for every wrong we have ever committed, whether done willfully or in our oblivion.