Recently I asked a young friend a question. “You’ve played tournament golf at a very high level. What have you learned?”
Without hesitating he said, “I’ve learned that no one is watching me.”
I knew exactly what he meant. Pretty much everyone who has played in a tournament (basketball, tennis, golf, etc.) has felt the pressure of everyone’s eyes on them, even if they weren’t.
My friend was saying he finally figured out it wasn’t about him. Yes, his family and friends in the crowd were watching. His fellow competitors (as they are known in golf tournaments) watched to ensure the rules were kept and the score was correctly reported. Other than that, only God was watching. And none of those — friends, competitors, or even God — was going to judge him for hitting either good or bad shots.
For some of us, that’s hard to learn. I once played in a golf event where I had to hit a shot on a par three with 4 professionals and 11 other amateurs standing on the tee. And watching, I thought.
I wish I’d know then that none of them were really watching me. At the time I felt every eye looking for flaws to critique.
It was too bad for them that they weren’t watching, because I hit a great shot. For the day, as it turned out, mine was the closest to the hole.
P. G. Wodehouse wrote: “Golf… is the infallible test. The man who can go into a patch of rough alone, with the knowledge that only God is watching him, and play his ball where it lies, is the man who will serve you faithfully and well.”
I imagine the same would be true for many (most?) people driving a car if “only God” was watching. How would you drive if you had a twenty mile stretch of “enforcement free” road? Faster than the speed limit, I’m guessing.
Thieves generally work in the dark, either literally or figuratively. Their goal is to not be seen. They want to avoid having eyes on them, so they use the “cover of darkness.” If you could cloak yourself with invisibility, how would you behave? Would you use that power to go places you wouldn’t otherwise go? Would you use it to steal?
You may have noticed that the examples I’ve given are negative. I didn’t ask, for instance, if you would go around doing good deeds unseen if you could be invisible. A real life tooth fairy, perhaps?
That would be amazing, and it’s fun to ponder the possibilities. (If you think of one, put it in the comments below.)
Aside from positive behavior changes, which I’m coming back to, there is something else to consider about being watched.
We all want to be seen.
I don’t mean we all want to be in “the public eye.” That can get overwhelming. Just ask Tiger Woods, who named his yacht Privacy and uses it primarily to get away from people. Adding to the privacy, he takes it out to sea and SCUBA dives.
We may not want to be famous, but have you ever noticed people at sporting events when they are on the JumboTron? When people see themselves being seen on the big screen, they often get a little silly. If they’ve recorded the event they send that clip to their friends. Maybe you’ve done that.
I’m not a psychologist, but in my experience knowing we are seen creates a connection. It might be brief, but it is real. So here is a tip for you if you happen to notice anyone on the street who is truly homeless. Look at them so they know they are seen.
Even people standing on a corner with a sign asking for money (they are probably not homeless, regardless of what their sign might say) can get a lot out of eye contact and a nod of the head. And doing that might be good for you, too.
Being seen can take different forms. Having your work acknowledged is being seen. Someone holding a door for you means you’ve been seen. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to see people, but it does require intent.
Being seen — or watched — changes our behavior for the better
One of the most intense places to work, I understand, is in an operating room where critical surgeries are performed.
A life can sometimes be on the line, time is often a challenge, mistakes can have terrible consequences, and every person working there is literally an expert. Leadership in the OR is different than outside it. Someone who is a peer outside might be the boss inside, so communication can be challenging.
In Australia, a “three-month experiment was undertaken to address a widespread culture of bullying and poor behaviour in surgical theatres.” (Notice the Australian spelling? These findings were published by the University of South Australia this month.)
They tried “a novel experiment to address offensive and rude comments in operating theatres by placing ‘eye’ signage in surgical rooms.
The eye images, attached to the walls of an Adelaide orthopaedic hospital’s operating theatre without any explanation, had the desired effect in markedly reducing poor behaviour among surgical teams.”
The lead researcher, Professor Cheri Ostroff, “attributed the result to a perception of being “watched,” even though the eyes were not real.” Amazing!
Some think those who “watch” are there to judge them, whether for good or ill. Generally we try to please watchers.
Some think of “being seen” as an acknowledgement of their existence, which is powerful.
However you define them, know that both being watched and being seen will almost always improve your behavior for the better.
Knowing that, you can do a great deal of good by seeing other people, and, in an appropriate time and manner, watching them.
If you ever feel unwatched or unseen, remember that God is always watching you, and he always sees you. Even when you are SCUBA diving.
Do good. It’s in you.