Perception Isn’t Everything… But It’s Close!

A few weeks ago while preparing for a ministry event I was watching Paul Tripp’s DVD, “Getting to the Heart of Parenting” (which I very highly recommend!) where he said something that I really wanted to disagree with. The problem is I could find any way to prove him wrong… and I’ve been looking for loopholes since then but have come up short. So what did he say?

“Human beings, made in the image of God, do not live life based on the facts of their experience, but based on their interpretation of the facts.”

Tripp continues in the DVD by giving an example where his young son was hurt and needed an ambulance, but he was really calm and at peace despite the blood dripping down his face. At that point, Tripp noticed his son was quietly whispering something, “I’m so glad my daddy is a doctor! I’m so glad my daddy is a doctor!” That’s true… but he has a Doctor of Ministry degree in Biblical Counseling (not very helpful if you need staples in your head to close a gaping wound).

Perception isn’t everything, but it’s really close.

My son, Matthew, is three and my wife and I have finally started making progress towards getting him potty trained. As I write this post the timer is going (he has ten more minutes right now before his next attempt to go pee pee in the potty). He’s finally starting to go when we tell him it’s time, but he refuses to tell us when he needs to go potty. He says he’s scared of the potty. Perception is everything. He knows it’s not scary, but he thinks it is – therefore he’s been very resistant and he’s finally starting to come around to it.

I’ve also been reminded of the perception that many have about me as a pastor. When I see teenagers who haven’t been in church or at youth group and I smile and tell them that I’ve missed them, many of them take that as a guilt trip saying, “C’mon… where’ve you been slacker! Don’t you care about God!” Perception isn’t everything, but it’s close.

I’ve written a number of blog posts about homosexuality, usually through the lens of Glee or Lady Gaga or some other entertainer/media form. I’m not homophobic and I don’t believe Christians should be homophobic, but I do believe that homosexuality is a sin and I have clearly stated that in those posts. If you hunt those posts down you can see what type of comments I’ve gotten accusing me of being a narrow-minded, judgmental Christian. The reality is, it’s nearly impossible to speak about polarizing issues without some people imposing what they assume about you to influence how they interpret what you say or write. Perception strikes again.

A few thoughts on getting perception to line up with truth:

  1. Be as clear as possible in what you say and how you say it. Non-verbals (eye contact, body posture, hand gestures, etc.) are so important, do not disregard them.
  2. Live in such a way that others will rightly interpret what you say. If you are a judgmental person and gossip a lot, then when you try to speak truth about a particular issue that could be controversial, people will have a tough time giving you the benefit of the doubt. But if you’re a gracious and humble person, even towards those who disagree with you, then maybe people will actually hear you out.
  3. Don’t jump to conclusions, ask more questions. This is pretty obvious, but difficult to actually do. We generally think we understand more than we really do.

What am I missing? What are some other ways we can bring Perception and Reality together in our marriages, parenting, ministry, work, friendships, philosophies, and religious beliefs?

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