Most of us at some time have stood before a mirror and uttered a few words. I have no statistics to back my belief that this is commonplace, but I feel that a solid majority of people don't think twice about talking to their reflections.
So I've decided to pass on “Bob's Rules for Mirror Conversations.”
The first rule: Whenever you find yourself engaged in dialogue with your mirror self, be mindful of what you say and how you say it.
Psychologists use the term “rationalization.” Standing in front of a mirror, a person easily can fall into self-pity, excessive self-congratulation, even false pride and praise.
It's a moment where wrong can turn into right, where you can find a way to accept your excuses.
These conversations with yourself mirror what is in your soul, and whatever feelings you harbor about yourself — or others — can come to the surface.
The Scriptures are filled with examples of people talking to themselves.
When Moses sent spies to take a look at the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 1:22-28), what they saw frightened them. The inhabitants appeared strong; they looked like giants. Returning, the spies began pitying themselves, “murmuring in their tents, saying, ‘The Lord hated us and brought us out of Egypt to destroy us!'”
Their thoughts reflect a feeling all too familiar today, when people agonize, “Poor me! Why me, God? What am I going to do?”
I caution you. It's hard for God to use you when you feel sorry for yourself.
Another suspect dialogue people have with themselves is self-congratulatory, generating false pride and praise. In Luke 12:16-21, Jesus tells the story of a rich man talking to himself, completely forgetting God. The man's fields have yielded a bumper crop, and his inner thoughts betray him: “What am I to do? I have no place to store my crops. I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and I'll say to myself, ‘You have plenty. Take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry.'”
How often have you been tempted to pat yourself on the back and say, “Look at what I've done!” Then you forget about God, and you take center stage on the podium of arrogance and vanity.
At the end of the story in Luke, Jesus calls the man a fool.
There is a modern-day story, about a man who became lost in the woods. Describing his experience to a friend, the man said he had never before needed God. But in the woods, he prayed for God's guidance. The friend asked if God answered the prayer, and the man said, “Oh, no. Before God had a chance to answer, a forest guide came along and showed me the path.”
Mirror conversations easily deceive you if you are caught up in fear, pride and self-deception. However, if you approach the mirror of your soul in wonder and awe, observing the unique creation God made in you amazing things can happen.
The next time you find yourself standing in front of a mirror, do your best to repeat the words of a young man who one day realized how blessed he was. Gospel writer Luke didn't give the prodigal son a name but, standing in front of the mirror of his soul (Luke 15:17), “he came to his senses” and returned home to his father.
Standing in front of your mirror, you honor God, too, when you make sure your conversation is full of thanksgiving and worship for the gift of another day.
Robert Hayes Jr. is bishop of the Oklahoma United Methodist Conference and the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference.