Perception is as real as eyesight. If it’s true that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, then it shouldn’t be a surprise that what is beheld by another likely won’t be equally the same, no matter what words are exchanged. That has certainly been my experience.
Perspectives can easily become polarizing. How accurate a perception may be often depends more on on the eyes of the engaged beholder than the eyes of a disengaged bystander. What may be seen by one passionate, as pleasing to the eye may be seen by another dispassionate, as displeasing.
Perception is influenced by significant variables such as education, experience, and heart-felt opinion. For instance, the power of “story” (sometimes viewed as true history) can be used to influence opinion, if taken at face value. Such information, whether or not it is validated, can then become inward-formation, changing people and their beliefs.
However, most would agree that our actions don’t always reflect our beliefs. Rather, they do reflect what we truly value! For instance, words don’t always accurately convey thoughts or intentions, just as our actions do not. Look at you. Look at me!
Our behaviors can even betray our beliefs. What we demonstrate in the public square may not be an accurate read of what we truly live in our private arena, where no one else sees. This becomes a litmus test for authenticity; a bellwether for sincerity of heart. Only God accurately knows for sure.
Words themselves are always subject to perception or interpretation by others. The same word can cut either way depending on context. Words have meaning that change with time, use, or geographical location. What do the words “awesome,” “wicked,” and “bad” mean to you? Can we all agree? I doubt it.
Voice can give power to words that temporarily motivate, yet may not permanently change people. Inspiration doesn’t always lead to transformation, even though we may wish otherwise. I’m a living example of that in my own life.
So what are we to do in the midst of today’s hostility and unrest? How should thosewho walk by faith and not by sight respond? Silence won’t do. Such is often viewed as making its own statement. On the other hand, Statements won’t do. Depending on how the words are interpreted by the reader, they may displease rather than appease; hurt where they were intended to help. What then is the role we should play, if at all?
As much as it is possible to you, come along side, listen, learn, and love. I suggest it is for us who call ourselves Christian to become a human “paraclete.” Paraclete (Parakletos – Gr.) by the Webster definition is:
- one who is called to one’s side, to one’s aid
- one who pleads another’s cause before a judge, a pleader, counsel for defense, legal assistant, an advocate
- in the widest sense, a helper, comforter, aid, assistant
- used of the Holy Spirit in the Bible
The Holy Spirit is to lead disciples to a deeper knowledge of the gospel truth, and give them divine strength needed to enable them to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of the divine kingdom. So our roleis NOT to confront or correct but to come along side, enter in, with those different from yourself to advocate, comfort and encourage. Not easy to do when you expect others to understand you!
However, in order to be understood, the first step is to understand. After all, how can you really come along side something or someone you don’t first understand? You can have all the right intentions but still end up with the wrong result.
- How well do I understand myself? My own character-makeup and motivations? My family of origin or background? My own culture with its positive and negative influences? My means of communication and expression?
- How well do I understand others, and their relative experience of the same?
- How well do I truthfully listen and also tangibly love?
Of course, the thinking should never be “us” versus “them.” Rather as the lyric goes, “We all bleed the same color.” Color of skin is what we ourselves present to others in life, and they present to us. However, such is only the cover of the book, so to speak. Blood, on the other hand, is something internal that we all share in common, which we all require in order to live. Bottom line, it is good to remember and not forget that underneath color we all are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). This alone, for us all, should be the great equalizer. How well do you and I know that?
As another lyric soulfully goes, “Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen.” Likely true! With what you see, more than what you say, with the help of the Holy Spirit, what will you do? – RWO/MAST