When Perception is Not Reality

We hear it all the time, “Perception is reality.” And I know the point: How you perceive something becomes “real” to you . . . whether it is true reality or not. But what if my perception is not based in actual reality?

What if I am operating with a faulty perception?

When I was a little girl, I loved putting together an outlandish costume from a box of old “give-away” clothes, and dressing up as some imaginary character I created in my head. I would go through the day as “Pocahontas” (Not the Disney version, this predates that!) or a southern belle, a chef, or an airline stewardess.

When I looked in the mirror, I “perceived” that I was Joan of Arc, but in reality, I wasn’t.

There is a real danger in believing that “Perception is reality” when it comes to how we view others, especially when we assume motive and apply that assumption to our perception.

Yesterday, I challenged us to “Think the best, not the worst” when it comes to how we view others. I want to continue considering that thought today but come at it from a different angle.

In my last post, I threw out the concept of viewing others through the grid of God’s potential work in their lives; to look at others knowing that God is at work and is able to form them into Christ-likeness.

Today, I want us to consider the possibility that our perception may be off-base. If you’re involved right now in a conflict with someone, or perhaps you’ve walked away from a friendship in the past, or it could be that you have a long-term dispute with your mate . . .

Are you sure you’re seeing them for who they actually are? Or could it be that your perception may be colored a bit by past hurts, misunderstanding, physical factors (your time of the month), or gossip you overheard about them?

Could it be that you perceive them to be someone they’re not? Perhaps you’re placing them in the category of “enemy” or “selfish” or “weak” when that isn’t reality at all. But your perception has become your reality.

What if “your reality” is simply an imaginative version of the other person? 

I’ve done that.

I’ve viewed my husband as a weak loser. I thought he was my enemy. I saw him as selfish.

That was my perception for a few years, but that wasn’t reality.

The reality was that he’s a sinner and I’m a sinner—both deeply loved by God and in need of His grace. But also, the reality is that: True love will think the best. Love views things from a higher perspective.

[box]Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4–7)[/box]

“Love takes the best and kindest views of all men and all circumstances, as long as it is possible to do so. It is the opposite to the common spirit, which drags everything in deteriorem partem, paints it in the darkest colours, and makes the worst of it. Love is entirely alien from the spirit of the cynic, the pessimist, the ecclesiastical rival, the anonymous slanderer, the secret detractor.”

So, the way of love is to think the best, not assume the worst.

Love’s perception is hopeful, faith-filled, gracious and full of belief for what God can do.

Is your perception of others gracious?

Do you think the best or assume the worst?

1 Pulpit Comentary

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