The Power of Eye Contact

Matthew 6:22 “The eye is the lamp of the body.”


My wife Julie and most of my friends have been required to use reading glasses for more than 10 years and at 51, somehow, I have escaped.  However, recently when I look at the type in my bible it is fuzzy and requires adjustments in my focus to read the text.  My favorite Christmas gift has been bright LED flashlights so I can see the small things I am working on.  I thought I was cheating time, but it has caught me.  To my dismay, I visited the eye doctor and she confirmed my condition and changed my prescription so that one contact helps for reading and the other for distance.  I am adjusting to switching from eye to eye depending on what I am looking at, but expect it will become automatic.

Following the exam she asked me if I had any questions and she probably did not expect what I have been chewing on the last couple weeks.  She was using sophisticated instruments to look into my eye, but following the exam I looked her in the eye and asked her the question I had been thinking about that had little to do with my eyes.  Have you ever noticed that you can’t make eye contact with someone unless you person to person.  I had been watching speakers on video and noticed that no matter how directly they looked in the lens of the camera I could not make the connection that you get in person.  You cannot make eye contact with a photograph.  I enjoy using Facetime to communicate with our son, Drew, at Auburn University, but the eye to eye contact is not the same as in person.  There is a deep personal connection that happens when you make human to human live eye contact.  Eye contact can communicate respect, interest, sincerity, appreciation, understanding, warning, empathy or any one of thousands of human emotions with a brief glance.

For all my career I have been in a sales or relationship building capacity.  I have flown across the country and across the world to share a meal and have a personal face to face meeting.  I make this effort to convince my customer or vendor that I am worthy of their trust to fulfill an important responsibility that they must accomplish.  Whether you as selling a one-time consumer purchase on Amazon or selling a custom-built piece of machinery, trust has been established.  There is a person behind every transaction and people buy from people they trust.  We have a customer that recently awarded us business based on the trust of a personal referral.  We have accepted a significant responsibility to co-develop a new technology that involves technical risk, close collaboration and a financial risk of such a large endeavor.  I am driving three hours to have a meeting with their owner so I can look him in the eye.  I want to know if I can trust him and I want him to know he can trust me.  Somehow, I will look him in the eye and I will know.  It will only take a moment and we will shake hands and may share lunch, but it is the eye to eye contact that will reach beyond the physical and give us a sense of trust and confidence necessary to go through the challenges we will encounter on this journey.

What is it that is so powerful with human to human eye contact where in a brief moment you can instantly sear a connection between the souls of two individuals?  It does not happen over the phone, internet, photograph or Facetime.  It is more than identifying life.  I can look into the eye of any animal and instantly know if there is life inside.  If you look into the eye of a fish, snake, squirrel, horse, chicken there is no connection other than a recognition of predator or not a predator and an appropriate reaction.  I have read that the only other animal that can read human emotion is the domesticated dog and there is no doubt that I can communicate with my dog, Cooper, by just eye contact.  Evidently clinicians have been able to measure an increase in the amount of oxytocin upon recognition.  This is the same hormone that bonds a mother and infant.  Maybe this is why dogs can be so effective and therapeutic to humans.

As I surfed the internet reading about the power of eye contact I came across an experiment that demonstrates the power of human to human eye contact.  We don’t need to know each other or even speak the same language.  Take a moment and experience the power and emotional connection that comes from eye contact.

So what does the bible tell us about eye contact?  The most famous story is told by Luke about Peter denying that he was one of the followers of Jesus.  Luke 22:60-61 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.”  Immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed.  The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.”  Can you imagine the guilt and shame that pierced the soul of Peter at that moment?  In a brief glance, the eyes communicate painful betrayal and loss.  Do you think that experience changed Peter?  Do you think the guilt that Peter felt may have been a motivating factor to become the bold and fearless disciple and church leader that ended with him defending his faith to his death?

In Mark 5 we are told the story of the bleeding woman who was healed by touching His garments.  Mark 5:30 Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My garments?”  And His disciples said to Him, “You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’  And He looked around to see the woman who had done this.  But the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell-down before Him and told Him the whole truth.  And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction.”  It does not specifically say that there was eye contact, but I can see Jesus scanning the crowd until he locked in on the woman eye to eye.  What did the woman feel when Jesus turned to the crowd to see her?  Clearly she knew she had an encounter with the Lord and fell on her face to worship Him and tell Him the “whole truth.”  What do you think she told him?  Do you think she wanted to know Him better and for Him to know her?  After she was healed and Jesus looked into her eyes she opened up to Jesus and confessed the “whole truth”.  Do you think she felt His mercy, grace and love for her in His eyes?

The bible tells the stories of many personal encounters with Jesus.  In John 4 we hear the story of Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman at a well.  He asks the woman for a drink and tells her that those that drink of this water will thirst again; but the water that Jesus gives provides eternal life.  At some-point I can see her look into the eyes of Jesus.  What did she experience as she connected eyes with Jesus?  Luke 19:5 tells us that Jesus was passing through Jericho and spotted Zacchaeus in a tree.  He made eye contact with Zacchaeus and then called him by name.  What will it feel like when Jesus makes eye contact with you and calls you by name?  Mark 5 tells us of Jesus’ encounter with a demon possessed man.  In verse 6 “When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him.He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”  When the demon saw Jesus he recognized him from far away and feared Him.  Think about all the encounters that Jesus had with others Mary, His disciples, John the Baptist, the leper, the lame man, Pilot, the thief on the cross and many more.

So what can we learn from the power of eye contact?  We know that when we connect with people through our eyes we communicate at a deeper level.  For children who probably interact more with an LCD than face to face we teach them to have a firm handshake and look others in the eye.  Engage others in a personal way and look them in the eye.  It will serve you well.  When people connected with the eyes of Jesus it changed their world. Personally we can reflect on what it will be like for us to look in the eyes of Jesus.  For those of us that believe Jesus as our Savior we have the Holy Spirit living in us.  When we connect with other people who do they see?  What do we communicate?

May your life be enriched and may you bless others by recognizing the deep communication power that you have to connect through your eyes.

This entry was posted in Family Leadership and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.