The Trouble With Perceptions

 

The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16: 7b 

  Last week, a wealthy, attractive celebrity met a tragic death. I don’t normally follow the personal lives of celebrities, but I found myself parked in front of my television a couple evenings last week, watching celebrity gossip shows speculate on the death of young actor Heath Ledger.

  Images of his dashing features and promising career brought me back to a conversation I was part of about a year ago. An acquaintance of mine mused, “Why are people like Brittany Spears so unhappy? They have no earthly excuse to be.”

  It’s human nature to look at snapshots of someone else’s life and conclude that they somehow have it better than we do. When I see a famous person like Heath Ledger meet an untimely death — and hear of the inner turmoil that haunted his final years on earth — I am forced to rethink my assumptions about others. Too many times I’ve allowed my perceptions of someone else’s happiness to create discontent in my own world. “God, why are you blessing them, and not me?”

  Not only is it tempting to make assumptions about those who’ve achieve worldly success,but I’ve caught myself and others making wrong assumptions about what it means to be a godly person, a “good Christian.” I hear fellow believers say they feel small or inadequate next to some perceived spiritual giant, or envy some gift or perceived virtue of another.

  I recently came across a reflection from a young woman that gave me a fresh perspective on those I perceive to be “perfect.” St. Therese of Lisieux, a Carmelite nun who lived in the late 19th century, was a model Christian very young in life. Yet, a few years before her own young death at 24, she reflected on how others perceived her in her autobiography Story of a Soul:

  “I cannot say that Jesus makes me walk the way of humiliation

exteriorly. He is content to humble me in the depths of my soul; in the eyes of creatures, I succeed in everything.”

  Therese expressed much discomfort in the compliments lavished on her because “I remember who I am.” She knew the intimate details of her faults even while others could not see them, and often felt the difference between her and the great Saints like Aquinas was as vast as a grain of sand at the foot of a mountain.

  St. Therese wasn’t alone in her discomfort of others’ perceptions.

Mother Teresa often tried to deflect attention because she knew she wasn’t really the true source of her “success.” Mother Teresa‘s personal letters, released last year, revealed her own private periods of darkness laced throughout her extraordinary life.

  Sometimes, the unseen crosses weigh us down more than any outward suffering ever could.There is so little we truly know about other souls — only that which others are willing to share with us. This is why the comparison game is such a sham. It creates a toxic cycle of private shame and envy that isolates individuals in a world

where we’re all trying to “measure up” to fabricated standards. Jim Hancock, author of Posers, Fakers and Wannabes, expressed the dangerous game of comparison like this:

“I judged what I knew about me by what I didn’t know about them.”

  Life, of course, does not have to end with each one of us locked in a private world of faults and failings. Even with their interior crosses, both St. Therese and Mother Teresa knew they did not have to live a life of disconnection, shame or envy. They knew true inner peace rested with the only One who is perfect and yet, with full knowledge of our faults, loves us unconditionally.

  Not only does God love us as we are, but He’s ready to use even our failings for incredible good — perhaps even greater good than had we been “perfect.” When we stop comparing and put energy towards building the most important relationship we’ll ever have, doors open to a life greater than we could have planned or achieved on our own.

  Intersecting Faith & Life: Americans are reportedly some of the loneliest people on the planet. Intimacy flourishes when we let our guards down and allow others to see who we really are, imperfections and all. Set aside a little time this week to strengthen a relationship with a friend or family member. Be open to talking about what’s really going on in each others’ lives so that you can build each other up in the faith.

Change Your Mind………For Good

 

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.—Philippians 4:8Recent studies by neuroscientists have shed great new light on the mind.  The human mind thinks up to 60,000 thoughts each day.  Most thinking is done on autopilot with the mind thinking the same habitual thoughts over and over again.  If it seems like you’re hashing out the same mental routine each day, there’s a good chance you are.

The brain protects its storehouse of information – be it good or bad.  Engrained habits are protected so the autopilot lifestyle can be maintained.  But when we’ve repeated a new thought or practiced a new behavior for about 90 days, it becomes part of the brain architecture; voila, we have new hardwiring!

The good news is that we CAN change the way we think.  After that, those new – and improved – redemptive thoughts become habit. A new lifestyle can become the new norm.  The Bible says we can challenge false thoughts by “taking every thought captive.”  By thinking on what is true we overcome low self-esteem, fear and doubt.   We can also have what the Bible calls “the mind of Christ.” Because those lies of low self-esteem, fear and doubt don’t exist in the mind of God, we can think “as if” we are healthy and whole and soon our bodies and spirits show new vitality.

This is a great day to call those stubborn false thoughts by name, write them down and then tear them down. Replace them with noble thoughts, admirable thoughts, thoughts of excellence and allow your new, bigger thought life to open the door to a grander world.