take a look at the image above. what do you see? do you see a duck facing to the left or a rabbit facing to the right? this, one of the most famous optical illusions, is a great illustration of one of the most fundamental truths about the human experience: perception dictates what we understand about reality. to quote obi wan kenobi as he explained to luke why he lied (and to do so on may 4th), “so what I told you was true… from a certain point of view.”
as beings of intellect and emotion we all have very specific perceptions of the world around us. politics, sports, tv, everything we encounter is tainted by our point of view: our perception. when perception falls in our favor we love it; we embrace it; we get excited about it. yeah us.
when perception, however, is not in our favor, we rail, we fight, we justify. with family, in ministry, and in the marketplace, negative perception is something that we see as something to conquer. we must change perception to our favor or all is lost. especially when the criticisms come.
aristotle, one of the fathers of philosophy, spent a great deal of time in his writing and teachings dealing with perception. he speaks about perception in two ways: the ability to perceive is what differentiates humans from animals and all perception is the result of change. practically speaking this means that one of the things that makes us human is that we have perceptions. it makes us unique. what creates our perceptions is the experience of things changing. so the more we experience change in our life the more our perceptions in life change.
quite often when we deal with negative perception, we treat it as a direct attack on us and it becomes a change that needs to happen. we convince ourselves that if we can explain our situations, if we can get others to see things the way we see them (adopt our perception) things will be different. we rail against what we do not like and fight as if anything less than a change in perception is failure.
unfortunately, that battle is pointless. you as an individual have no ability to effect the perceptions of others. no matter what you do in life you will never gain the ability. the more you strive to change perception, the more you entrench that perception. simply put, the moment you begin trying to fight against perception is the moment that you agree that the perception not only exists, it has some validity to it.
prevailing perceptions (those many people have) are challenged greatly in the Bible. Christ deals with this constantly in his parables. think about it for a moment. in telling stories and speaking in parables, Christ sought to change the perception of his followers from away from overly religious hebrew tradition to that of a people who embrace the gospel. you see Christ was not interested in fighting peoples perception of who he was or who he wanted to be, he wanted to change the framework by which people formed their perceptions.
through the sermon on the mount Christ displays this by changing the rules. rather then fight against the perception of what a person should be, He changed the mechanism by which people should be evaluated. and that is the key. the next time you run into a perception that fails out of your favor, rather than confront the perception head on (a battle you are most likely to lose), force others to change how they create their perceptions in the first place.
“when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying, “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” matthew 5:1-12 (nasb)