Photo credit: Shewanda Riley

By Shewanda Riley

“Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.”  This phrase found on car passenger side mirrors has always puzzled me. For starters, even though I’ve read some research on the difference between passenger and driver side windows, I don’t completely understand how the mirrors’ imaging works. As I thought about it recently, initially I believed it would lead me to some deeper spiritual meaning about why we should not look behind (i.e., focus on our past) as the things we are looking at appear larger than they actually are. My thought was that because we continue to think about those things(experiences) that are behind us, we make them and their impacts on our lives bigger than they actually are.

However, my research found that the opposite happens: objects in the passenger side mirror appear smaller than they are.   According to a few websites, convex mirrors, the ones used on an automobile’s passenger side, distort objects by making them appear smaller and farther apart than they actually are. For safety reasons, these mirrors also have a wider field of vision and help reduce blind spots. On the other hand, concave mirrors, which are normally on the driver side, have a narrower field of vision but show objects more accurately in terms of size and distance.

So, what is the deeper spiritual revelation about rear view mirrors? After thinking about it and also thinking about how I deal with unresolved issues from my past (especially with a particular recent situation), I think it has to do with being aware that how we view our past has a lot to do with how we move forward. I’ll admit that doesn’t seem overly “deep” but there is an insightful truth in its simplicity. Here’s what I mean: We are familiar with the cautionary tale from Genesis 19:26 of Lot’s wife who turned into a pillar a salt because she turned around to look at Sodom despite warnings not to do so.

Like many of you, I proudly proclaim that I refuse to be like Lot’s wife and am no longer looking at my past but I’m pressing ahead like Philippians 3:13]”Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,”  However, I have to be honest about the constant struggle to not take a peek at that past through the symbolic rear view  mirror of memories, doubts and disappointments.

Honestly, I’m not turning around but I’m still peeking at my past from that rearview window. As a result, my perspective of what happened is distorted, even as I’m thinking about situations, experiences, and relationships. And even worse, I’m unable to focus on my future as I am distracted about my past. So, is the point not to use the passenger side mirror? Of course not! They keep us safe even if we know that the image is warped. So, until you are able to no longer sneak peeks at your past, remember that what you are looking at is more than likely twisted and misleading. Eventually, you’ll get tired of that and stay looking forward.

Shewanda Riley (Aunt Wanda), PhD, is a Fort Worth-based author of “Love Hangover: Moving from Pain to Purpose After a Relationship Ends” and “Writing to the Beat of God’s Heart: A Book of Prayers for Writers.”   Email her at or follow her on Twitter @shewanda.   You can also listen to her podcast at