Perception, or Rats and Thieves

Um, yeah, I was totally wrong about that…

Have you ever been totally wrong in your perception about someone, or something?

Story #1:

I was sitting on my porch one Saturday morning, looking across the road at an empty lot, wondering when they were going to cut the grass.

And then I saw it. A huge, disgusting rat.

Great. My lazy neighbors won’t keep their lot cleared, and now we have rats. Wonderful.

I watched it wander around the tall grass, back and forth, looking for who knows what. I wondered how many more of them were out there, plotting the next yard to invade. I looked away for just a second, and when I looked back, it was gone.

Well, it was never actually there.

What I thought was a rat across the street was actually an ant on my porch screen.

Perception.

Story #2:

My wife and I were out shopping, and when we returned to our car, I noticed that the car parked behind us had the driver’s door open. But I didn’t see anyone in the car.

I walked around the car, looked under it, and didn’t see a soul. Weird, I thought.

I looked around the lot, and a man got out of his car and said, ‘Yeah, I’ve been watching that car for a while now. I thought that was pretty weird, too.’

I told him that I was going to look in the car, to make sure there wasn’t a phone, keys, purse, or any signs of strangeness. So I leaned across the driver’s seat to see if there were any keys in the ignition…

At this very moment, if the owner had returned to his/her car, they would have assumed that I was trying to steal something in the car, or the car itself.

Perception.

‘We tend to see ourselves primarily in the light of our intentions, which are invisible to others, while we see others mainly in the light of their actions, which are visible to us…a situation in which misunderstanding and injustice are the order of the day.’
-E.F. Schumacher, paraphrasing J.G. Bennett

Oh, how often we are wrong about people, and about their intentions. We immediately jump to conclusions, without ever stopping to ask a couple simple questions. Without ever hearing their story.

We know they have a story. We know they have reasons behind their actions. We may not agree with their actions, but the story would at least bring some understanding to the party.

But it’s more fun (and much, much easier) to jump to false conclusions.

‘Those good-for-nothing neighbors refuse to cut their grass, and now we have a rat infestation. Lazy sons of…’

Come to find out, they HAD tried to cut the grass, but could not because of road construction in front of the property.

So I was wrong in my perception on TWO counts: no rats, and no laziness.

If I really loved my neighbor, I’d cut his grass for him.

But would he perceive that as a critique of his property management skills? ‘Oh, so this guy thinks he can do a better job, huh?’

See what I mean?

*First posted August 27, 2014*

About pastoroftheprez

Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Kings Mountain, NC.
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