Reflections in a Mirror
What do we see in the mirror?
by Helen Levesley (revised, originally published in 2011)
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider what we see when we look in a mirror.
Preparation and materials
You will need a hand mirror and four volunteers.
Ask the students to cast their minds back to when they first looked in the mirror this morning. Point out that they were probably not looking at their best. However, the face staring back at them was a fair reflection of what they look like without their hair brushed, face washed and make-up on.
Point out that, if they had looked carefully, they could probably have seen some resemblance to their parents and brothers or sisters.
Ask for the help of four volunteers. Ask each of them to look in the hand mirror and describe one thing that they see. For example, they might say, ‘My eyes are brown,’ or ‘I wear glasses.’
Give the volunteers time to make their comments.
Ask all of the students to imagine that they are holding a hand mirror and looking at their face in it. Ask them to focus on one thing that they can see. What does their reflection show them?
If we look in a mirror, we see our reflection, what we look like – the colour of our eyes or hair. In a long mirror, we can see whether an article of clothing suits us.
Looking into a mirror can make us feel great, or help us improve the way we look.
In the book Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the Mirror of Erised reflects the deepest desires of those who look at it. Harry, who lost his parents when he was young, sees them in the mirror. Ron, who is desperate to achieve, sees himself winning the Quidditch cup and becoming head boy. What a fantastic mirror, to show us what we truly desire, to reflect our very wishes back at us!
Ask the students, ‘What would the Mirror of Erised show you?’
A sporting victory, perhaps, or an academic achievement or a family united? Sadly, the Mirror of Erised is a figment of J. K. Rowling’s imagination.
Explain that sometimes, mirrors can show us things that we don’t like about ourselves, and things that aren’t true. When someone suffering from anorexia looks into a mirror, a fat person seems to be staring back, instead of a figure of skin and bones. Sometimes, people who have little self-worth and low self-esteem will look in a mirror and see someone they dislike staring back at them.
Invite the volunteers to look into the mirror again, but this time, ask them to think of something positive about themselves that cannot be seen in the mirror, but that they reflect towards others. An example might be, ‘I’m helpful’ or, ‘I make people laugh.’ (You may wish the students to share these thoughts, or simply look and then return to their places without speaking.)
St Paul, whose letters are in the second half of the Bible, wrote that in our lives, we see things ‘in a mirror dimly’. Mirrors in those days were not as good as mirrors today and produced an image that was not very clear. St Paul was talking about not seeing clearly what God is saying and doing. However, his words can be applied to our lives. When we look at ourselves in a mirror, we see what we want to see - what’s on the surface - not what the mirror really reflects back to us, which is a person of individuality and uniqueness.
In the same passage, St Paul said that one day, we would see clearly. I hope that, when you look in the mirror in the mornings, you don’t just focus on what you can see on the outside. Instead, take a look at what you are like on the inside: your positive, good qualities, such as your ability to make others laugh, or qualities that make you a good friend, sister or brother, daughter or son, teacher or student.
Time for reflection
Let’s think quietly about our positive features, both the things that can be seen in a mirror and the things that cannot be seen, but that we reflect outwards to others like a mirror.
Allow me to see in the mirror my positive qualities,
as well as the things I dislike about myself.
Help me to be aware that there are some things that I can change,
and some things that I can’t.
Teach me to recognize that the things that I see and am critical about
are often what someone else will like about me.
Allow me to be positive about my reflection,
both the reflection that I can see and the one that I can’t.