Stephen Covey made the image featured above famous. He used to ask audiences what they saw: an old woman or a young woman with a shawl. He had other images to prejudice viewer minds beforehand, one that emphasized the old woman and another that emphasized the beautiful woman. One half of the room would see one image and the other half of the room would see the other (they had instructions to close their eyes for the other half if you didn’t guess). When he put the combined image on the projector, he would get roughly half of the room answering his question by raising their hands to indicate that they saw an old lady. You can guess what the other half of the room saw. The room would routinely respond by seeing what they’d been trained to see. Until audience members saw the non-combined images, very few people saw both women in the same combined image – they saw one or the other. After going through the exercise, you have to ask yourself what glasses you use to see things. In religion or philosophy, we refer to this as exegesis. What paradigms are affecting how you perceive your world? Are those paradigms right, wrong, or neither? Are they helping you, hindering you, or not affecting you at all? If you’re an introspecting individual, you’ll want to know the answers to these questions.
This concept has renewed meaning for me.
Having reviewed literally thousands of viewer comments, this principle has become more profoundly engrained in my mind than ever before. Before telling you about that, I’d like to say what I see when I watch the show (not in any particular order). First, I see very strong motivation to continue losing weight. I’m down more than twenty pounds since filming but since I’m lifting six days a week, I’m guessing I’m closing in on thirty pounds of fat loss – still far from where I’d like to be. Sad, I know, that’s obvious and self-absorbed but … I’m just being honest. That sticks out to me. Second, I see my beautiful wives saying things I’ve heard them say many times before and I feel gratitude in my heart that they are who they are. I’m proud of each of them for different reasons but I’m everlastingly grateful they are each a part of my life. I was also disappointed that too much lighting made a couple of them look like ghosts in several scenes. I want to have a talk with our cameramen and say: “Hello, we’re pale-skinned. Could we dim those lights please? We look like Casper and his buddies.” Third, I see bitter bickering and failure to abide by basic Christian principles that leaves me feeling inexpressibly sad and extremely regretful that we, as a family, set such a bad example of our lifestyle on national tv. Worst. Disappointment. Of. My. Life. Fourth, I see happy children acting happy just like every other day of their lives romping around in the background of the show, largely unnoticed. Fifth, splicing and dicing. I’m not supposed to talk about that much but I see more of it than any of us expected.
Of course, many viewers see the bickering. I can’t blame them for that – it’s in your face, so to speak.
But many viewers absolutely love the fighting. They gossip about it and talk nasty about it on various forums across the internet and they take pleasure in sophomoric mocking of how individuals speak and appear. Some comments are so vile, they leave me truly disheartened to see how shamefully far we’ve fallen as a country. We incessantly wallow in our most base levels of humanity (or lack thereof) and find pleasure in sickly, infested mud. I’m truly heartbroken we’ve set such a bad example of our lifestyle that we fed that culture to whatever degree we did. The self entitlement attitude of snowflakes has also taken me by surprise. Somehow, by going on tv, everyone should expect the foulest comments to be made and all of those comments are “valid” and need to be spoken or else the person expressing them might feel devalued somehow. Ummm. Ok. And people wonder why we homeschool. I would rather my children be considered somewhat socially awkward than to grow up thinking it was important to spew venom out of their mouth in order to feel important. I digress.
But here is what surprised me.
Despite what I perceive as a nearly universal failure to show any redeeming qualities about the lifestyle, our family has received a lot of love from viewers as well. I’ve been asking them how they’ve seen past all of the bickering and they’ve had a lot to say. Many viewers say they don’t like how reality tv shows focus on so much drama but they expect it and just look past that part of the programming. Those viewers have made some astute observations I may have missed. One noted that if April and I had been married for twenty years, we must be doing something right. And while other viewers are calling for one of us to leave the other for whatever reason they perceive as so egregious, April and I have walked side by side for over two decades because we have something deeper, something profound enough to disallow disagreements from throwing us into different worlds. Other viewers have noted that our children are very happy, healthy, and beautiful. That wasn’t an accident. When we go in public, people notice that they are remarkably well behaved as well. And talented. I’ve been super proud of my children in their interviews as well. They did such a good job and none of the parents were around to coach or advise. We just let them say what they had to say. They did a much better job than I did!
These types of viewers notice that we’re “real” because we allowed ourselves to show our bad side on camera so people can see what the lifestyle is “really like.” I swallow hard when I hear that one. Our first season doesn’t show what our lifestyle is “really like.” It shows us experiencing our worst train wreck as a family! But I’m grateful some good can come of it. Other viewers have noticed that it must be terrifying for us to be public with our lifestyle with prosecution hanging over our heads and that the fear probably induced stress and extra drama for filming. I feel like saying “thank you” to anyone with enough vision to consider that as a factor. One of my wives was crippled with fear at times and lamented after various scenes that she felt like she messed everything up. It’s nice to know that some viewers can see through the dramatic music and zooms to discern that. Others have noticed that our personal interactions with fans online shows a different personality than shown on tv so there must be some editing to weed through. Thank you as well. Others have the intelligence to see past the “it’s all about sex” rhetoric and note how we trudge through thousands of hateful comments to answer sincere fan questions on fan groups. We’ve tried not to make much fanfare about that but sensitive fans notice anyway.
These people are the type of people that give me hope for our country. They see the young, beautiful woman with a feather and shawl after they’ve been encouraged to see the ugly old woman. Hopefully, if we have a season 2, we’ll offer everyone else a chance to see that beautiful woman as well but if not, I know you’re still out there. May God pour out every blessing upon you that you’re willing to receive.