On a recent edition of Insights and Sound Bites, Sarah speaks to the benefit that she gained by learning from and being led by other blind people. She needed to get over her anger and other emotions when coping with her new normal. Does that sound familiar?
Many of us have learned to adapt to the contours and perspective of being blind or having low-vision through rehabilitation teachers, orientation and mobility instructors, and computer techies who introduced us to screen reading software. Some were sighted while others were like us-having some degree of vision loss. There seems to be that unspoken bond when we can glean insights from each other since we know intrinsicly what challenges we encounter.
In telling her story, Sarah mentions how she is glad that the blind led the blind, though the phrase has made her very angry. After all, according to the Grammarist website, “The blind leading the blind describes a situation in which an inexperienced, incompetent or uninformed person is advised and guided by an equally inexperienced, incompetent or uninformed person. The term the blind leading the blind is the first line of a proverb that has fallen out of use: when the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into a ditch. The proverb was derived from a quote found in Matthew 15:14 of the New Testament of the Bible: “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.””
Unfortunately, the phrase from Matthew 15:14 has been taken way out of context over the centuries to mean in popular parlans what the Grammarist indicates. Because much discrimination has taken place toward us who cannot see, many irrational images of someone lacking sight have cropped up from the unemployed and depressed loner begging for money to that of someone who lacks knowledge just because they don’t see. So the perception has persisted that when the sense of sight is gone so does a person’s ability to work or contribute to society in a meaningful way.
Unpacking the Bible’s meaning, it’s clear that In the time when Jesus Christ spoke of a blind man leading another into a pit, he was speaking to people who kept the blind, the deaf, the mute, and so forth on the fringes of society. It did not mean that he condoned or approved of it Himself. Nor did He consider blindness a personal deficiency or curse. As He showed in one encounter with a man blind from birth (John 9), blindness is what it is in our fallen world and it doesn’t in itself lessen someone’s dignity or value.
Of course, we can be thankful that many advances have taken place in the way of technology, education, and many perceptions toward people who are blind or otherwise physically disabled. The reason why we want to correct our lack of sight if at all possible is to improve our perception and contact with the world around us; it’s not merely to think we’ll be more complete or of a greater value than we have now.
So is it okay to use idioms like “the blind leading the blind”? Yes. After all, we ourselves will speak of watching TV or we use phrases like “I see your point.” Many of us who identify as Christians joyfully sing the final words to the first stanza of “Amazing Grace.” “I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”
For the Christian, this means that our Lord Jesus has opened our eyes of faith to trust Him who is our Light and Life for eternal salvation.
We can freely use the idioms and phrases that refer to blindness as they have developed over the centuries while being glad that we have role models and mentors who are blind, the blind leading the blind to navigate life’s contours.