“The light of the body is the eye….” – Matthew 6:22
Notice that native ASL users, Deaf people, look at your eyes, not your signs. How can that be true? Yes, the signs can be seen, but the full meaning is in the eyes. When a Deaf person signs, you should look more at their eyes than their signs. You will begin to notice a wide variety of expressions that come from eyes, nose, mouth, and face. Signs give the context, but the face and eyes share the feeling and depth of meaning.
Yes-Nod – Notice also that a yes-nod does not always mean yes. Sometimes a yes-nod means, “I understand your signs, but I don’t know what you are trying to say.” Sometimes a new (hearing) signer will nod, not wanting to seem ignorant. But the truth is that they don’t really understand the signer. One young lady, a new signer, kept nodding while a young Deaf man signed to her. I asked, “Do you understand him?” She said, “Not really.” He was asking her for a date! OOPS! She was very embarrassed.
I-Love-You – While preaching to a Deaf group, I asked, “What does the sign ‘I Love You’ mean?” I did not expect what happened. A Deaf lady spoke up and signed, “Nothing!” Everyone laughed, but we all knew she was right. The I-L-Y sign only has meaning when interpreted with facial expression. I-L-Y can mean, “Good-bye, everyone,” “Don’t get mad at me for saying what I just said,” “You are a good friend,” and much more. Of course, it can also mean, “I Love You.” It all depends on the face.
Deaf people talk with their hands and hear with their eyes. Just as a text can be misunderstood without seeing the face (or hearing the voice) of the one texting, in the same way signs can be misunderstood without seeing eyes of the one signing. Let’s open our eyes, look at their eyes, and see what is really being said.