The co-worker who always gets recognized by his supervisors even if it is undeserved. The married couple that seems to have it all. The sibling/friend/classmate that can do no wrong. I’m sure all of us can think of people that fall into these categories. These people share a common trait – they all have mastered the art of “optics”.
“Optics” is basically a euphemism for “public relations”. It is a major buzzword in the current climate, whether in politics, sports, or the corporate world. Decisions are often made based on the public perception of the decision rather than the real consequences of the decision. Individuals and corporations care deeply about looking good in front of others and will go to great lengths to hide anything that could be perceived as “bad”.
Recently, I was reprimanded by the department VP because of an email I wrote that projected “poor optics” on the department. The email was a quick update on one of my projects that was sent to the project team and my boss, despite my boss not being involved. My primary reason for including her was to keep her informed, but I was also trying to practice “good optics” by suggesting that she was involved in the project. Apparently, this was not enough for the VP, who insisted I take the extra step of addressing all future group emails to my boss to give the appearance that she was the real project leader. The VP believed that this step was necessary to prevent anyone from thinking that I was going over my boss’s head in leading this project, which would make my boss and the department look bad.
Despite my disdain for optics at the workplace, I find that optics are interwoven in my walk with Christ. Everything I think, say, and do with the intention of glorifying God is warped by the need to look and feel like a good Christian. For instance, I like coming to GRC 10-15 minutes before 2 service in order to catch up with other GRC attendees. But a part of me is also saying to anyone who will listen, “Hey look at me! I’m here early, spending my precious time to talk to you. Aren’t I one of God’s good and faithful servants?” Although I may be able to convince myself and others that I am acting with pure motives, God sees through my attempt at “optics” and reminds me of my sinfulness and utter need for his grace and mercy.
In Luke 20:46-47, Jesus gives this warning to his disciples: “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.” Let’s not focus on trying to look like good Christians. Instead, let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
Jeffrey Wan has been a member of GRC since 2016 and is a newly installed deacon. He and his wife, Joyce, dislike wearing wedding rings and only do so for “optics.”