Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Lens of Perception

The lens changes everything

This morning we grapple with the notion of perception. Until college I assumed the way I saw the world was the same view as the people around me. If we are both looking at the same thing or experience, then I thought our perception of it would have to be the same. But through events in my college experience like Shiloh and 9/11 my belief in some objective perspective and experience fell to pieces. At 24, I see more than ever that each of us see and judge the world through a unique set of lenses. Our lenses are most shaped by past and present experiences. Like no two people have the same fingerprints, so no two people share the same set of lenses. A better understanding of our lenses helps to bring focus to another's experience that we often don't understand. What has shaped Chris's lenses? Good Question.

1. Gender=Male. As a male I obviously lack serious understanding of the female experience. I have no idea how hard it was to achieve the right to vote. I have no idea how hard it might be for women to compete in a workplace dominated by the prejudices of males. Can I come close to understanding the frustration of a woman who is paid less for doing the same job? Instead of brushing off issues of gender in the workplace or in the church, all males need to take time to sincerely listen to women voice their concerns because for most of history it has been a voice that has been ignored.

2. Race= White. As a white male I lack the understanding of always being second guessed which is a part of everyday life for minorities in America. I am never randomly selected for search at the airport. I am never followed around in the GAP. Rarely do people ask for my ID. Cops always address me by my last name when they give me the ticket. What do I know of being made to feel like a criminal? What do I know of people doubting my intentions? What do I know of being arrested for walking in the wrong subdivision? Nothing. As such I need to surround myself more with people who don't look like me and deny the assumptions of Cable news that would have you believe that crime is an occupation of the minority.

3. Martial Status=Single. As a single white male I don't have a clue as to the simple and complex workings of a marriage. I struggle enough with committing to a favorite cereal let alone another human being for the rest of my life. Have I made any really tough decisions? Not really. But married couples make them everyday with bills and schedules. The single and the married really are two different worlds. Do I know the kinds of sacrifice it takes to keep a marriage going for 60 years? So when I can't understand when my married friends can't go out, maybe there's reason (and a good one).

4. Kids=None
. If marriage is a different world, then having kids is a different universe. I love little babies just as much as anyone, but they don't go home with me and I'm glad. All I see is no sleep, diapers, and whiny 2yr old tantrums. But parents see something different all together. It's something I can never see until it happens to me. My only guess is that it is something that redefines grace has you see unconditional love take shape in human form.

5. Religion=Christian. Of the five I believe this to be the greatest influence of anyone's lenses. The confession of Christ as Lord is a bold claim and one many despise. In fact many have been killed for such a confession. The pagan sees the world as a creative accident where our actions have very little consequence. The Christian sees the world as a beautiful creation made with a purpose where our actions have eternal consequences. The pagan sees the need for vengeance and greed. The Christian sees the need for mercy and charity. The pagan sees the need for war. The Christian sees the need for peace. Many disagree with the Christian lens calling it everything from exclusive to idealistic. The Christian need not be offended when people accuse them of seeing the world wrong, but instead take time to understand why one feels the need for vengeance, greed and war.

So there you have five of the many factors that go into shaping the lenses through which I see the world. Right or wrong, it's me. What do your lenses look like? This week take time for better understanding of those around you. If you are surrounded by only those who look, talk, and act like you, then maybe it's time to broaden your experience. It seems awkward at first, but I’m guessing so is the first year of marriage, or your first child, or the first time you stand up for Christ. Maybe it's time for all of us to broaden our lenses of perception.


Coming Next Week: Setting Your Future In Clay


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