One of the reasons I’ve come to embrace a new view of confession and live it out as a lifestyle is because it helps us to change our perception of others and ourselves.
Perception means, “insight, intuition, or knowledge gained by perceiving.” Do you think what you’re perceiving is accurate or inaccurate?
You’ve probably heard the remark, “He or she is a very perceptive person.” It’s good to be perceptive (if you have accurate information), but I’ve also heard it said that “perception is reality.”
I want to share a story that illustrates perception.
There was a lady who enjoyed hiking and running. One day she heard about several rapes that had occurred within the park she runs at, and the police were looking for a man who’d exposed himself to unsuspecting park users. TV and newspapers warned women about running or hiking alone on park trails.
Despite the publicized concern she decided to go to the park alone on a beautiful fall evening. It was such a glorious day she couldn’t imagine a criminal lurking in the park!
For a few miles, she ran in perfect solitude, through majestic evergreens and twisting mountain trails. She was about to break out of the forest into a clearing and then stopped dead in her tracks. She tried to keep from panicking because directly in front of her, sitting on a park bench was a naked man! Fear and disbelief gripped her as she realized she had run right into the path of the rapist!
She knew she had to think fast after she realized he had noticed her. She knew to turn around and run through the woods was not a good idea at the risk of him following her. Suddenly she remembered reading somewhere, that men who expose themselves for thrills are typically cowards and non-combative.
She decided to be the aggressor and catch him off guard. She took a deep breath, jumped out of the woods, and ran straight toward him, screaming “hey” in a deep, menacing tone and waving her arms over her head. It worked! The man jumped straight up off the bench in apparent shock!
Then she noticed he was wearing tiny blue running shorts, which she hadn’t seen from the edge of the woods. The man ran away in the opposite direction. A little dog, whom he’d been petting between his legs, scampered behind him.
As he sprinted across the meadow, he nervously looked back over his shoulder at her several times. She thinks he’s probably still in therapy somewhere, petrified to jog alone anymore.
Her perception was not reality! Her perception caused her to act and react in a way that she wouldn’t have, had she had all the information.
The story is real and hilarious, but not unlike what many of us do all the time. We perceive things to be true when we don’t see the whole picture.
Many times we are doubly sure what we saw and heard was completely accurate. We cause unbelievable damage because our sight or hearing is impaired. Poor perception can be dangerous and very destructive.
Inaccurate information can cause damaging results and weaken our relationships. We pass judgment with only a piece of the story and destroy many friendships.
One of the core components of a lifestyle of confession is accepting others. As we hear someone's story, we begin to know them deeply, and as we get to know them, we no longer want to judge them.
Our perception shifts when we hear the story of others. It allows us to have grace, love, and patience in ways we might not have when we didn’t have the whole story.
But our perception of ourselves also shifts when we share our own story. When we hear it out loud, we begin to see it differently and pick up on aspects or emotions or situations in a fresh way.
As you live out a lifestyle of confession, you’ll start to notice your shifting perception.
What perception of others have you been holding on to without knowing their whole story? If you knew their story, do you think you would be able to see them in a different, more accepting way?
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