Perception Is…

Perception Is…

“Perception is reality,” they say.

Recently I’ve had conversations with several of you in which this adage has arisen, and I’ve been pondering it — and, frankly, wrestling with it — a lot.

In much of our lives, and definitely in ministry, it’s important to have the capacity to “meet people where they are”. If a person says that things are a certain way, I need to be able to work with that, even if I see things differently or disagree. If I am to be effective in communicating with them, ministering to them, making progress together, etc., then I must recognize that what they perceive to be true is their reality.

But also, our perceptions can be wrong, inaccurate, misguided. And they can change and expand and evolve over time.

Some (presumably very smart) human beings believed that the Earth was flat. Their perception didn’t make it so.

For some of my formative years, I believed that I had insight into the one and only true religion. My perception didn’t make it so.

And for many years, it was very clear to me that cauliflower was awful. I didn’t like to eat it raw, I didn’t like it in curry dishes, and I actively avoided it. Until one day a year or so ago when a friend served roasted cauliflower as part of dinner, and I took a small “no, thank you” serving. To my surprise and delight, it was delicious — please-serve-me-seconds-and-thirds delicious — and I now seek it out.

Think of all the deliciousness and nutrition that I’d be missing if I hadn’t remained open to the possibility that my caulifloral perceptions might be wrong, inaccurate, misguided.

I am trying to practice applying this learning to other parts of my life, especially when I feel myself getting defensive or reactive when my perceptions conflict with others’. Sometimes I have information or perspective that helps them broaden their view. And often they help broaden mine. We need to be open and communicative with each other if this broadening is to occur.

This give-and-take is one of the critical tasks of our religious community. Our Unitarian Universalist values and principles demand that we remain open to new revelation and insight, and we actively affirm a belief in the value of the community in encouraging this type of growth in one another. (See our 3rd UU principle, for example.)

Where might your perceptions be unnecessarily narrow or inaccurate? To what possibilities might each of us need to remain open, lest we should miss out on fuller and deeper understandings of ourselves, of each other, of the human condition?

Perceptions are real, but they don’t fully define reality. Rather, perception can be skewed, biased, limited, impressionable … and also a living, breathing, evolving possibility!

Yours with love,
Paige

5 Comments

  1. vincent marando

    Comments are a bit abstract and lacking in context. What is up?
    There has been one conversation that I have had with Paige that has been hanging and unresolved (to me) for quite a time. The issues in question are more that perceptions

  2. Dori

    I LOVE this! We do need to challenge our premises and validate our perceptions–and our tastes and opinions can change. Things can wake us up. Decades ago, when my girls were little, I used to scoff at “environmentalists”. They turned out to be way ahead of their time. Camping? Hated it–or, thought I did. It turned out that it was sleeping bags and tents that were awful, while time in nature has become increasingly important to my well-being. Reparations to victims of slavery? Ridiculous! Until I learned that institutional racism in policing and elsewhere has gone on for my entire lifetime. Jim and I used to have a bumper sticker that read, “Minds are Like Parachutes. They Only Function when Open.” It was right.

  3. Phyllis Jovich

    But, I’ll never be able to find the truth if my perceptions are leading me. I can talk to others, like-minded and different-minded, but what I hear from them are their perceptive conclusions. The only truth is immediate and scientific. And also . . . . “caulifloral”?

  4. Suzanne Henig

    My perceptions on big issues have certainly changed over the past few years. Although it hasn’t always been comfortable (more like using a crowbar to open my mind at times), I feel that I am a better person because of it. I credit UUCC and its leadership with my growth and shifts in perception and am deeply grateful. I will continue to look to UUCC for guidance and support as I evolve throughout my life. I hope we can be patient with one another as we find our way.

  5. Becky Bell

    How is UUCC providing opportunities to practice this critical task? Also are we living into our principles of human dignity and value while encouraging growth in one another?
    “We need to be open and communicative with each other if this broadening is to occur.
    This give-and-take is one of the critical tasks of our religious community. Our Unitarian Universalist values and principles demand that we remain open to new revelation and insight, and we actively affirm a belief in the value of the community in encouraging this type of growth in one another.”

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