In critical theory, sociology, and psychoanalysis, the gaze refers to the act of seeing and, in the philosophical and physical sense, how an individual perceives other individuals, groups, or oneself.
Gaze theory describes how viewers engage with visual media. Originating in film theory and criticism in the 1970s, the gaze refers to how we look at visual representation.
In literary theory, gaze is a particular perspective taken to embody certain aspects of the relationship between observer and observed.
(These definitions were borrowed from Wikipedia)
In short, gaze is how we perceive what we see.
Shifting Your Gaze
In a recent visit to the Revolutionary War Museum in Williamsburg, VA, an exhibit focused viewers on the importance of “shifting your gaze” to see the often forgotten and overlooked role of African Americans in the war.
African American slaves had to choose the side – Patriots (colonists) or British – they felt gave them the best chance for freedom after the war. For most, it did not work out the way they hoped. While the slave trade was suspended during the Revolutionary War, it increased again after the war ended. Thus, many African Americans from both sides were thrust back into slavery after the war even though they fought in it with the promised reward of freedom afterward.
In this exhibit, shifting your gaze allowed you to see the war from their perspective. This perspective is one many forget to consider, especially since slavery is such a focus later in the American Civil War.
How can we apply this idea of “shifting your gaze” as Christians? Our goal as Christians is to see people as God sees them. We also want to see ourselves as God sees us.
Though there are more, consider the following two Bible verses as you consider how to shift your gaze to be able to see people and yourself the way God does.
“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:28-29)
These verses tell us that God sees us as being in transformation. He also saw us long ago and chose us to become like Jesus.
How do these truths change how you see other people? Yourself?
What other verses might help you shift your gaze and see people and circumstances through God’s perspective rather than your own?