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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

Our perception sadly is realitycomment (0)

September 13, 2012

By Jean Roberson


Our perception sadly is reality

Perception is reality.” Have you heard that?

Honestly, that drives me crazy. What does it mean? 

Does it mean that what you think about a person determines how you will act toward him or her? Yes. Does it mean that what you think has occurred determines how you will react to a situation? Yes.

To be honest, if perception is reality, then we must put a lot of faith in our ability to discern people and situations. We certainly do not often leave room for our own error, do we?

How often do you hear broad statements like, “Ms. Smith never volunteers. She’s only interested in herself.” When the person acts differently than our perceptions we remark, “Well that was unlike him!” 

It certainly is important to know the individuals with whom we live, work and worship. However, there is a fine line between knowing people and operating off of our own perceptions. 

The problem comes when we form our ideas of one another, because those perceptions become static. 

They become the standing reality from which we speak and interact with that person. Rarely do we check our perceptions and our ideas of one another. 

Once our perceptions become static and set in our minds — once they become our “reality” — we act based on those assumptions. We might be completely wrong, but our perceptions still become the basis on which we treat people. And if we are not careful, we become the ones who give people bad reputations and who fail to give grace. 

When I was finishing my master’s degree I worked as a family therapist. It always amazed me how a family would come in with stereotypes of each other. 

For example, the “troubled teenager” was perceived as always causing problems even though the teen would have been working to change for the past year. Because the perception of the teen was that she was a troublemaker, that teen was treated as such. How could that teen possibly change if, in everyone’s mind, she was a troublemaker? 

In our homes, in our workplaces and in our faith communities, as Christians we are the givers of grace. 

We are the ones who proclaim that everyone can become a new creature in Christ. 

We are the ones who seek to know and understand others rather than build a reality based on our own perceptions. 

God, grant that we are not so egocentric in our perceptions that we fail to perceive Your reality. 

A Takeaway Value …

As you have read this, who has come to your mind? Perhaps you could spend some time with that person so your relationship is based on who that person is now rather than on your perception.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Jean Roberson, MSW, LCSW, is a ministry consultant for national Woman’s Missionary Union. She serves as team leader for the adult team and director of Christian Women’s Job Corps/Christian Men’s Job Corps and International Initiatives.

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