How do the Homeless See Themselves?

By: Bill Nixon – Director of Community and Spiritual Care, The Mustard Seed

Have you ever caught yourself looking in a mirror and the image was like seeing yourself for the first time?

That happened to me recently and I realized that the tall good looking individual that I really never was, no longer exists even in my own imagination. It’s almost like for a few brief seconds you see yourself the way the world sees you and it’s something of an eye opener.

In fact, there is often a gap between how we see ourselves and how others see us, and occasionally the gap is much bigger than we think.

Self-awareness is not my greatest strength.

It involves and kind of brutal honesty that is often difficult to deal with. But it’s really the only way we grow, and sometimes it’s the only way we get better in our understanding of ourselves and our relationships with others.

Perception is everything, but not very often completely accurate, whether it’s positive or negative.

I’m so grateful that God sees past all that stuff in my life and the lives of others. Recently the staff at The Mustard Seed in Calgary have been doing a series on the names of God. Genesis 16:13 uses the name El Roi in reference to God, literally a God who sees.

There is great comfort in knowing that God not only sees me, but loves me and accepts me where I’m at, and that there is no performance clause.

If I get it right, God loves me. If I get it wrong (frequently), God still loves me.

Who knew Billy Joel was stating a biblical truth when he sang… “I love you just the way you are.”

How do the homeless see themselves?

Because of deep hurt and rejection, they have built up some pretty amazing self defense mechanisms complete with corresponding story lines to build themselves up.

However, on occasion if you will walk alongside these amazing people, you will get glimpses into the reality of the mirror image they see.

An image that throws back broken pictures of abuse and rejection, or of self-inflicted pain based on bad choices often forced upon them because of circumstances beyond their control.

An image that makes them victims or in some cases even heroes of their own story.

Their image is often no more accurate than ours.

How many of the awesome folks we care for at the Mustard Seed see themselves with little or no value?

How often does our attempt to be an encouragement get lost in the false reality of their own self-image?

This is perhaps why mental health issues amongst the homeless is so much more prevalent than other population bases.

I‘ve said it a million times, did the mental health crisis result in being homelessness, or did homelessness result in the mental health crisis?

So what’s the point?

Simply this . . .

The reality is that we have so much more in common with the people we care for in this world. We are not that big a deal.

It is in our common challenges that we will often find the bridge that can lead to relationship, and out of those relationships comes the opportunity to truly make a difference in our neighbours life.

We are all just out there doing the best we can, that we all have good days and bad days.

Some of us just look like we’re more successful at it than others.

The views expressed in this article are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Mustard Seed.