Perception is a bad measure of reality

I’ve been really busy the last few months. I’m not complaining. I love the people I work with and love the people we serve even more. Still, it’s good to have a moment to contemplate life. My mind is usually buzzing with a dozen different ideas at once, so contemplation, that moment where God says “hush”, is very hard for me.

A few years ago, I read a book called The Noticer. It’s popped back into my mind a few times lately. I am glad it has, although I have been trying to read a book on prayer and I can’t focus. The life lessons in The Noticer have come back to me time and again in my career, in my faith life, and even in my volunteer work in counseling.

The caption on the front of the book says “Sometimes, all a person needs is a little perspective.” It’s a good reminder when you are dealing with other people regularly.

In my previous career, I often said “perception becomes reality.” It’s true because perception is the way you interpret things based on your own feelings, thoughts or beliefs. Perspective, on the other hand, is the point of view that helps shape your perception. It’s how you look at the world around you. Sometimes, you have to change that view.

In scripture, Jesus tells us to love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31), to treat others as we’d like to be treated (Luke 6:31), and Paul adds the wise advice to treat others as better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).

It ain’t easy!

One of the life lessons in the book is about friendship. It says a friend will hold you to a higher standard than other people do and that is how they bring out the best in you. More often than we care to admit, we try to hold our friends to standards we would not apply to ourselves. This can cause hurt feelings, confusion, and conflict.

I’ve mentioned before how people have always come to me with their problems. Total strangers have pulled up a chair and shared their troubles with me. I used to think it was a curse. I have too many of my own problems. Why would I want another person’s baggage on top of them? I no longer think it is a curse but it is an added responsibility I have learned to accept.

Recently, a coworker got her feelings hurt and mentioned it to me. I listened with empathy and shared a story of my own where I also got my feelings sliced wide open at work. Almost simultaneously, we told each other “they didn’t mean it that way.”

It made me feel better. There is a darkness in the world right now and it doesn’t take much for that little negative voice inside to whisper a reminder in my ear.

“You’re not good enough. No one trusts you. You’re not important. You don’t matter.”

That dark whisper kept me up for nearly 32 hours straight trying to convince me to just resign, quit, leave, RUN!

In both instances, our perceptions—our interpretations—had been based in confusion and poor word choices. You can’t fix how other people speak to you but you can try on a different perspective and see things from their view. You can also hope they might, sometimes, do the same for you.

You’re only responsible for you. That’s the catch, if there is one, in a life of faith. Treat others as you’d like to be treated—even if they don’t do the same for you. Also, show them grace when they bruise you unwittingly. Chances are good you will return the favor and need their grace as well.

The simplest lessons are the hardest to remember.

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