Did you see snow on mountain tops or sand on beach rocks?
I took this picture at the beach, and I still think of snowy alps nearly every time I see the photo in my gallery.
Interesting, isn’t it?
A couple of days ago, I was driving somewhere and pulled up next to a car at a stop light. The car had an Indiana license plate, but at first glance I thought it said Nevada. As a matter of fact, I absolutely believed, in that initial moment, that the car was from Nevada. (Could it be because I lived in Nevada for 10 years?)
Until I took a second look.
How can we be so convinced that the way we see something is actually the way it is when it isn’t? My children were all raised in the same household, but each of them remembers incidents the others don’t, or from a different angle. Kind of like the movie Vantage Point in which we watch a plot unfold from several different angles.
What affects our perspective?
- Exhaustion – the day I saw the Indiana plates I had little sleep and much stress
- Anxiety – seeing life through anxiety places a filter of fear over every situation
- Age – a three year old and sixty year old will have a vastly different perspective
- Culture – a thumbs up here in the States is positive, but elsewhere it’s an insult
- Point of View – asking my grandchild seated in a stroller if he can see what I see over a fence is kind of pointless, right?
- Attitude – are you a half-full or half-empty kinda guy?
- Preconceived concepts – our values and beliefs become ingrained in us
- Experiences in life – each joy filled or painful circumstance defines how we will perceive the next similar situation
Everything we process is in relation to all of these things in our mind, heart and life.
No wonder people experiencing the same situation can have vastly different perspectives of what has happened. Granted, perhaps we can agree on general absolutes like the color red. But even as I write red, what color comes to mind? Tomato? Strawberry? Cherries?
I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around this concept.
I know what is in my heart or mind when I do, say or see something, but what if the next person has an opposite view of my action, words or vision? Is one wrong and the other right?
Or are they both right?
2 + 2 = 4 seems pretty absolute and concrete to me. And I, by nature, tend to see things pretty black and white. But my math-loving husband might throw a variable in there and contest that even numbers can change it up. (Unless they’re absolute numbers, right? But now we are in a realm for which I have limited perspective.)
So, how do we handle perspective?
My go to reference is the Bible. Here are a few things I’m learning and working on:
- Speak truth in love. My perspective is my truth, but I can present it kindly.
- Consider others’ interests not only mine. Their view is their truth so listen to them.
- Respecting each other honors Christ. Humility benefits us both.
- Be honest with myself. I may not see the whole picture.
- Don’t assume. I’m not someone else so even if I think I know what they feel, I don’t.
In the end, only God sees everything. The entire world, universe without time and distance is his. He can see from every angle and into every heart and mind. The Psalmist said,
Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, O Lord.” Psalm 139:4
That’s good news, because I can ask him to help me see as he does. From his perspective. He says if we lack wisdom (his way of thinking) we can ask him, and he’ll give it to us. And even better is that he can transform us by renewing our minds – changing our perspective.
The brief moment when I had an inaccurate perception about the car with the Indiana license plate didn’t matter in the big picture of life, but when my spouse or kids or friends and I think differently it can cause turmoil if we can’t tolerate and accept each other’s view of things. Even if we don’t agree.
Even now in our world, huge battles are taking place because of perspective.
Their perspective is true. My perspective is true. But only God’s perspective is 100% accurate.
What is your perspective about this blog post?