How is it that different people interpret the same circumstances so differently?
Picture this, it’s Valentine’s Day and since you’re such an expert on the subject of love, your single and searching friend comes to you with a dilemma. There is this lady he has spotted and really likes but he has never gotten the courage to ask out. Last week however, he decided to send a WhatsApp text, “hi. Just checking up on you to see how you are doing. XOXO.” He noticed that she was online, and she had started typing. His heart jumped for joy. Then she stopped. Nothing came through. Ten min, thirty min, an hour, three hours. No response. He checked to confirm the two blue ticks. He was even in a joint estate WhatsApp group and she had posted a forward there. But for him…nothing! He’s wondering what to do. What would you advise him? Would you tell him
- a) “Relax man, maybe she didn’t get it. Just send a follow-up message!”
- b) “Why in the world did you do that? Man, you should never have sent it. Now she thinks you’re desperate!”
- c) “She did what? She obviously wasn’t for you! Forget her; there are many other fish in the sea”!
How is it that different people interpret the same circumstances so differently? Some people tend to be so optimistic and dreamy while other people are so self-protective. It might have something to do with our past history with relationships.
Your experiences shape your perception. Your perception defines your attitude. Your attitude directs your actions. Your actions determine your destiny. Simply put, how you see determines who you become.
Read Luke 19:11-27.
In this reading, we see three employees working in the same condition. One gives 1000% return, the second creates 500% return but the third doesn’t even attempt. What distinguishes the last worker from the first two?
Each of these employees had a perception of their boss that determined their actions. The first two saw a man who was entrusting them with an amazing responsibility to do something significant. As a result, they exerted themselves and worked to the best of their ability. The third one saw a harsh, demanding and unfair man who was out to take advantage of him. And so did nothing.
Perceptions are powerful. They have the power to control our lives by dictating to us not just what we think, but how we act. How you see determines who you become.
The perception shapers that determine our actions are:
- Broken authority figures
Many people come from difficult family backgrounds and broken homes; fathers or mothers who were highly critical, abandoned and abused them, victims of harsh teachers or unfair bosses. We thus see God as a critical, demanding parent, who expects perfection from us and takes failures personally.
- Negative past experiences
There are people who have gone through some pretty rough times. We lost our parents, grew up in poverty, were victims of accidents or violence, business failed or we prayed for a desperate situation and nothing happened. Many Christians see God as a harsh policeman, meting out punishment to unsuspecting motorists and pedestrians
We live in a broken world. We are broken in many ways:
Spiritually – there is a sense in all humans that there is a vacuum; something bigger than us and that we are disconnected from it.
Psychologically – we suffer from shame, low self-esteem, addictions and so on.
Emotionally – our relationships are in a mess with humans violently hurting other humans, whether physically or emotionally.
Physically – for humans, we suffer with sickness and death.
Environmentally – we have destroyed our planet and we all suffer as a result.
Every one of us has been created for purpose. Mark Twain said, ‘the two most important days in a person’s life are the day you are born and the day you discover why’.
Many of us would like to discover our purpose. God wants you to know your purpose even more than you do. The key to living a life of purpose is to begin with the assignment God has given you. As we are faithful with the little that we have been entrusted with, then we create the space to be entrusted with more.
How you see determines who you become.
It’s time we stop allowing our circumstances and experiences to determine who God is and what He desires for us. Whether you are abandoned, unable to trust or un-forgiven it’s time that you commit to understanding the heart of our heavenly Father and allow Him to share it with you.
Other readings: Isaiah 49:15-16, Psalms 27:14, Romans 8:28, Psalms 9:9-10, Psalms 103:10-11, Ephesians 2:10