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What You See In Yourself Is What You See In The World

26th November 2020

‘What you see in yourself is what you see in the world’. (Afghan proverb)

When a person is ‘in love’ they may often be accused of seeing the world through ‘rose-tinted spectacles’. In other words seeing the world more favourably than others may say is borne out by reality. This may include the way the loved one is viewed, which can cause great anxiety among friends and relatives! However when a person experiences love and acceptance from another, they feel loveable and that sense of being loved is then projected not only to the object of their desire, but on to the whole world around them.

Of course the reverse is true too so that if love doesn’t run smoothly and a person feels rejected and  no longer feels loved , then the world becomes hateful and judgement is absolute…the very opposite of ‘rose-tinted’ glasses !

How we see ourself at any one time does shape the way we see the world and conversely, the way we view the world may be a clue to our sense of self. None of us views the world wholly objectively but through the lenses of our upbringing, culture and life experiences.

For example a child who is not brought up to feel loved unconditionally or who experiences judgement from an early age is likely to experience the world as less friendly or secure and to exert undue judgement on those around them. But a child who is brought up without undue criticism and nurtured with love, is more likely to experience the world as benevolent.

The spiritual writer Richard Rohr in his book ‘The Divine Dance’, calls this the Principle of Likeness,  seeing the world and people in our own likeness. He writes, ‘This principle of likeness has positive and negative manifestations – what you see over there is what you are in here’. He then goes on to say that the only way to get out of this vicious cycle is to know ourselves better and own the motives and feelings we project onto others. While he identifies the problems as psychological Rohr says the solution is spiritual, involving knowledge that all are essentially loved and loveable, which as a Christian he would say is the essence of the Christian message.

The following may be well known to some, but reminds us all of the important role upbringing has in enabling children to develop a benevolent sense of self so that  they may then both look upon and act within the world, more benevolently. It also reminds us of the all- important role of parenting and indeed teaching in creating a more compassionate world.


Children Learn What They Live
by Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with 
fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel 
If children live with 
jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with 
shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn 
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn 
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

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