We most often think of clarity in relation to sensory perception. How clearly can we see or hear? It is a measure of how accurately we are perceiving our world. Clarity is also critical to understanding and discerning truth.
Sensory Clarity and Impediments
Definitions of clarity and clear are often expressed in opposite terms – as freedom from or an absence of things that might hinder or impede clarity and therefore interfere with our ability to perceive and understand.
Some things that affect clarity involve conditions outside of ourselves, some involve inherent abilities which may be greater or lesser for different individuals or vary within individuals at different times or circumstances, and some require some effort on our part.
Hearing clearly can be difficult with external factors such as low volume, a weak signal or interference with whatever is sending a message. Background noise or multiple sounds and voices add confusion. With age or other conditions, the mechanics of the ear or connections with the brain reduce the ability to hear clearly. Hearing clearly also requires an ability to focus – to filter out what is unnecessary and tune in to what is significant. This ability can be affected by physical factors or conditions, but largely it requires personal effort and attention to focus, filter and concentrate.
When it comes to sight, it is easy to see how pollutants, clouds or fog effect clarity of vision. Light cannot be overemphasized as an influence of clarity. Some impurities are less noticeable, especially as we become accustomed to them. Sometimes we look through dirty windows or lenses so often that we do not realize until they are cleaned how much we have been missing. We literally ” see through a glass, darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Vision varies among people, but clarity can be improved by looking through corrective lenses. They sharpen our focus and can eliminate distortions. Magnification can improve clarity. It not only makes things appear larger, but makes details become more apparent. Seeing clearly also requires attention and focus through our own efforts. We miss so much because we do not really look.
There is obviously an interaction between sensory clarity and mental clarity. Information from our senses is processed in our brains, but this process can be complicated by a variety of factors besides those directly with the senses. Sometimes these are as simple as illness or fatigue. We can become overloaded and suffer from brain fog. Other issues are more serious. After my husband suffered a traumatic brain injury, his impairment included a lack of insight into his impairment. He truly did not understand what was wrong with his speaking or thinking or memory. I know an alcoholic well enough to be frustrated that the impairment of his brain by alcohol interfered with his judgement so he could not see that he was too impaired to drive a car.
Clarity of thought requires attention and focus – the ability to filter out thoughts and distractions and to be open to receive. In a world of constant sensory bombardment, it can be difficult to find quiet time to think. Conflicting messages, misleading arguments and plentiful misinformation further confuse and make it difficult to discern what is real or true. When there is confusion, there is no clarity.
Why is clarity important? On a purely physical level, if we cannot see or hear clearly we may be unaware of dangerous situations. Our senses are supposed to be a warning system for us, which may not work properly. In order to accomplish something we need to see and hear clearly to understand instructions, then understand concepts and principles and to be able to actually do the work. We cannot learn well with a lack of clarity. If truth is things as they really are, then the ability to perceive and think with clarity is critical to understanding truth.
Just as we must trust the clarity of our own senses to alert us to danger, we also rely on the clarity of leaders. A “watchman” is elevated on a tower to allow a large range of vision, free from obstructions. Do we trust that leaders have a greater view and can see and understand things that may not be clear to us?
The Spirit can play a huge part in expanding understanding and providing clarity. I think it can compensate for physical limitations at times and can be seen through actual sensory perception. Most spiritual clarity comes as insight and understanding. The Spirit can enhance our natural mental abilities and sharpen our focus. It can clear away impediments – the distractions and impurities that cloud perception.
The word clear is associated with clean – to clear away any clutter, pollutants, dirt or grime or to be free from impurities. On a spiritual level, these would be considered sins. Sins, or actions contrary to the laws of God, in a sense make us unclean. They are the fog, haze, darkness, interference and pollution which make our spiritual perception unclear.
Like with a brain impairment, spiritual impairment comes with it’s own blindness about it’s blindness – the inability to see it for what it is. The scriptures speak of a “blindness of mind” which is actually very real. I see similarities between this kind of “blindness” and the mental impairment from chemicals or a brain injury which limits insight into the impairment. Usually this occurs gradually like light dimming as the sun goes down and we don’t realize we are sitting in the dark. It was only some time after I had made a conscious decision to discontinue some sinful behavior, that my eyes began to open. I saw clearly the rationalizations that I had been unaware of while involved and feeling that this was no big deal. It is only after we begin to get the light back into our lives that we realize we have been in darkness.
When His disciples asked why He spoke in parables, Jesus replied:
“Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” (Matthew 13:13-15)
A Note on Clarity of Expression
I take great pains, especially in writing this Blog, to express myself clearly. Sadly, I can recall times when I have been misunderstood. The nature of our language can limit our ability to adequately put into words the thoughts we have. Sometimes the thoughts themselves are not clear and therefore come out muddled.
Communication is a two-way process. Misunderstandings can be a result of a lack of clarity on the part of the sender or receiver, or both. Too often our understanding is clouded by our own expectations, biases, and preconceived notions. We each can only work on improving clarity at our end, but understanding is enhanced when all are able to perceive, think and express themselves with clarity.