“The Power of the Personal”
It matters when we see someone’s face. A few years ago, Jonathan Taylor, an Israeli
Physician was conducting a fascinating experiment. With their consent, he took photos
of 300 men and women who were coming in for CT scans. He attached the photos to the
images that were submitted to radiologists. The radiologists-who knew nothing of
Turner’s plan-reported that they felt an increased sense of empathy toward these
patients, and a desire to be especially meticulous.
Author Daniel Pink points out that radiologists often sit alone. Their work of reading
X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs is incredibly important. But it can also feel impersonal.
Pink writes, “One of the measures of an outstanding radiologists is the ability to discover
“incidental findings,” physical concerns…that are incidental to the issue really under
The radiologists who examined the images of Turner’s 300 selected patients—the ones
whose pictures accompanied their scans–reported a remarkable number of incidental
Three months later Turner selected 81 of the scans in which an incidental health issue
had been reported. He resubmitted them to the same group of radiologists-who didn’t
know they were repeats-but this time without the pictures. The outcome was
startling. The second time 80% of the incidental findings went unreported.
Turner was quick to point out that nothing is going to replace sound scientific and
technological processes. But “the power of the personal” cannot be ignored. His
patients are human beings, not just physiological case studies.
It matters when we see someone’s face.
In Old Testament times, what did it mean to receive God’s blessing? Aaron, the high
Priest extended his hands over the people of Israel and said, “The Lord bless you and
keep you, the Lord make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you, the Lord turn
His face toward you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)
The ultimate privilege of being one of God’s people was knowing that God was turning
His face in my direction–that the King of the Osmos would want to know me personally,
and consequently let me know something of Him.
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul provides a foretaste of life in the next world.
“For now we see in a glass darkly,” he writes in I Corinthians 13:12. Glass mirrors had
not yet been invented. The only way to catch a blurry glimpse of one’s own reflection was
to gaze into the still water or a highly polished metallic surface. “But then (that is in the
next world) face to face.” On the other side of death, in other words, we shall see and be
seen as we really are–and that will somehow include the face of God.
Paul concludes, “Now, I know in part but then I will know fully just as I also have been
fully known.” Questions will be answered. Secrets will be laid bare. We will know and
be known as never before.
But what about today? What can we do right now to experience more of the
Personal? The next time you’re in a crowd or in traffic or sitting in a crowded arena,
remember that you are surrounded by real persons–individuals who have friends,
families, fears, joys and concerns. Consider pausing and offering a prayer for the
people behind those faces that you see just for a moment. And there’s something we can
always pray for someone, even if we know next to nothing about what they are facing
Lord, bless this person with your peace. The Holy Spirit will fill in the rest.
Ron Naylor, Chaplain