Looking at Me
An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider the importance of having a firm foundation on which to build our lives.
Preparation and materials
You will need a handheld mirror.
You will also need to be prepared to tell a story about an incident where you blamed someone else for something that happened to you. For example, you might have hit your head on a low shelf and blamed someone else for putting the shelf there. A fictional anecdote may be used if necessary.
Tell the students the story about the time when you blamed someone else for something that happened to you. Point out that it is very easy to blame others when things go wrong!
Show the mirror to the students and explain that you are going to tell them a story.
The story of the magic mirror
Once upon a time, long, long ago, there was a noble king. In his youth, this king had been tall, dark and handsome - the envy of all who saw him. Now, though, he had reached middle age and one morning, he saw himself in a mirror.
Hold up the mirror and look into it.
Ugh! What he saw was a man with wrinkled skin, bags under his eyes, a double chin and a big belly. Alarmed at his appearance, he sent for his finest doctors and the wisest of wise men in the kingdom. They poked him and prodded him, looked at him and examined him - and prescribed some tablets and a special diet. However, in the weeks that followed, nothing seemed to work.
Then, one day, the wisest old man in the kingdom came forward and said to the king, ‘I can guarantee a cure.’ He told the king that he must find a magic mirror. He said that it was in the hills, but could only be found in the earliest hours of the day, just after sunrise. He said that the king must look until he found it and, until he did, he must not look in any other mirror.
You can guess what happened. Next morning, the king got up early and went searching for the magic mirror. He did this day after day. He went to bed early so that he would be fresh for the morning and each day, he came back with a healthy appetite.
One morning, the king rushed back to the palace, announcing excitedly that he had found the mirror. ‘Look!’ he shouted. ‘It works!’
He called for the wise old man to be brought to him. When he came, the king held up the mirror . . .
Hold up the mirror and look into it.
. . . and said, ‘Look! No wrinkles, no bags under my eyes, no double chin and no big belly. What is the secret of the mirror that it makes me see myself like this?’
‘There is no secret!’ said the wise old man. ‘What you have done is simple - you have taken long walks, you have had early nights and you have eaten sensible food. No wonder you look so much better!’
And of course, the point of this lovely story is that as soon as the king took responsibility for his health, he started to improve!
Jesus spoke about the importance of people taking responsibility for their actions in some of his stories. He often told parables to pass on good advice and spoke about the need for us to take responsibility ourselves rather than looking for other people to blame.
Here are a couple of his sayings, which are found in Luke 6.
- ‘Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a hole?’
- ‘Why do you see the speck of dust that is in another’s eye, but not notice the log in your own?’
In Matthew 7.24-27, Jesus told a famous story about building houses on different types of foundations. In the story, a sensible man builds his house on deep, solid foundations. When storms beat against the house, the house stands firm, unaffected by the wind and the rain. However, when a foolish man builds his house on sand, with no foundations, it simply crumbles away when a storm beats against it.
In this story, Jesus’ message is that the foundations on which we build our lives are very important. We have responsibility for the way we live and for the way in which we treat others.
Time for reflection
It can be in our nature to blame others for what we are like or for what happens to us. The trouble is that, although other people do have an effect on our lives, we must take responsibility for the things that we do and the way in which we behave. We have to try to work towards being purposeful and strong and lay down a good foundation, allowing ourselves to become strong, honest people.
Help us to be good examples to other people.
Help us to behave in a way that helps those around us.
Help us to build good foundations based on love, peace and fairness.
May the values seen in the life of Jesus be reflected in our lives.
‘The prayer of St Francis (Make me a channel of your peace)’ (Come and Praise, 147)
General. Consider the implications of blaming others and saying that responsibility lies outside ourselves. For older students, this could include an examination of something like the Nuremberg trials; for younger ones, the responsibilities of a pet at Christmas.
Religious education. Consider the teachings of other faith traditions about the meaning of responsibility, such as the teaching of Mahatma Gandhi. If we subscribe to the attitude of ‘an eye for an eye’, the whole world will be blind in no time!