I love this video. Not just for the humor but also for the insight concerning perception versus reality. Regardless of the shopper’s “honest” intention to purchase a product, the perception of stealing was greater. Obviously, this is an exaggerated case – but we bump up against this idea constantly in daily life. People weigh our intentions and interpret them for us…often without asking us what our true intentions are. And for many, perception is reality. I’ve had some well-meaning people tell me that before. And why not believe it? In a world of spin and sound bites, we’ve been trained to care about the cover, not the book. But buying into that mentality will not only have you unsuccessfully judging the intentions of others, it will haunt you – we look over our shoulder and second-guess how our intentions are regarded by others. And if you think for a minute that posturing and politic will stop others from thinking the worst about you, you’ve got a long life ahead of you…
But here is the bottom line: perception is not reality…no matter how hard we try to make it so.
Christians steeped in grace have learned this. We have nothing to offer anyone, especially God. Of course, to embark upon a life of authenticity requires us to give up the right to defend our reputations and intentions. It requires us to come to grips with the fact that there are gaping holes in our character. I must admit I still want to defend myself on occasion. I read a quote by Brennan Manning the other day that I hope will stick with me for a very long time. In the Ragamuffin Gospel, he says,
“When a man or woman is truly honest (not just working at it) it is virtually impossible to insult them personally. There is nothing there to insult.”
I pray to God that I can become this person. It should be the heart’s cry of every believer. That type of openness and authenticity attracts the world to Jesus. “Reality” is the glorious revelation that in the midst of misunderstanding and wrongdoing, Jesus sees us for who we are. And he loves us without reservation. But to call it realitydoesn’t do God’s love justice. How about we just call it what it is: truth. Jean Danielou in The Scandal of Truth wrote: “Truth consists in the mind’s giving to things the importance they have in reality.” In other words, truth occurs when we purposefully rearrange our perceptions about others so that they mirror what God believes about them. Jesus must do this in us before we can do this for others.
It’s a little late for New Year’s proclamations, but choosing to live in the reality of God’s love rather than by the perceptions of others is at the top of my list this coming year. It’s becoming an annual quest for me. To move away from it would be to move away from the foundation of the Christian walk. Along the way, I have lost my footing in this truth. Thankfully, (for now) I’ve regained it. May we all find spiritual traction in the reality of God’s love this coming year.