Perception or Reality?

Talking with a friend the other day I was musing about the difference between perception and reality. In our culture perception seems more important. The economy seems to be worsening today sending stock prices down and the “chicken littles” into the streets proclaiming disaster. But yesterday (or a week ago) things seemed to be improving sending all manner of “Pollyannas” out to proclaim an end to the hard times. More money is gained or lost in the markets on the basis of perception than on solid fact.

One human trait is to judge based on perception.  First impression we are told are very important – and relationships, jobs and business deals hang on the first 10 seconds. But we are complex people, and it takes more than 10 seconds to get to know enough facts to make an accurate judgment.

Often when we look around we see so many other people who seem to have their act together, who seem assured, confident, with few problems or are handling problems so much better than we are. What we forget is that we are reacting to perceptions of others and the facts about ourselves. What we see of others is what they wish to have us see and know. Being on the inside of our thoughts and personal knowledge we are all too aware of our insecurities, our failings, and our struggles. Unless the other has been extremely open and candid with us about their situation we end up comparing the perceptions people want us to see and know about them with the bare and gritty facts we have about ourselves.

It is time to get back to facts and rely less on mere perceptions. Jesus seemed to indicate this when he suggested we identify people by the results of their life “By their fruits you will know them.”


About don

The Rev Don Hill is an Episcopal priest, rail fan and writer. He and his wife the Rev. Dr. Nancy Woodworth-Hill are currently Co-Pastors of St Paul's Episcopal Church, Jeffersonville IN, in the Diocese of Indianapolis. They also work as parish consultants in Appreciative Inquiry, strategic planning and spirituality development for parishes and vestries.
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