At various times in our lives, we tend to feel the need to sit back and take a look at how things are going. It’s like a status check or personal check-up from the inside out.
I find myself at a point where there is a great need for reflection – to reevaluate my own perspective. I’ve recently had major plans and goals for the future that I had been working toward when suddenly, that road seems to have been closed. There is now a major detour ahead… but I am not sure I will follow the signs. Instead, I am taking the opportunity to take a deep, hard look at myself and how I really look at things.
From the wise words of Thomas Jefferson, “honestly is the first chapter in the book of wisdom”. To go forward, I have to take a serious look at myself. After all, it seems to be that my own perceptions are what may have led me to misread the signs along the road to begin with. I misunderstood things because of my own, limited perspective, ultimately causing hurt and confusion for myself and others.
We All Have a Perspective…
Perspectives are funny things. Like belly-buttons, everyone has one – and they are all different. Our beliefs are based upon our perspectives. Our understanding is greatly limited by these perspectives and we tend to see things outside of our perception as untruths or at least inaccurate. Most of us even get quite defensive when someone with a different perspective challenges ours. Samuel Richardson said, “People of little understanding are most apt to be angry when their sense is called into question”. Have you ever been upset when a person outright challenges the way you see something? I have.
Anger, pride and stimulants such as alcohol, drugs and some medications all have an effect on our desire and ability to understand another. I’ve written a lot about understanding, yet it is the one thing I probably struggle with the most in my life when it comes to character building.
Anais Nin wrote, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are”. This is so true for us all, by nature. Understanding takes effort, patience, a lot of desire and the willingness to be very honest with ourselves.
To be able to understand – we must see things from the perspective of another. This isn’t easy and is unnatural for us as humans who have such a desire to be understood. My failure to understand, my defensiveness of my own perspective, my lack of humility… have led to times when I may have completely misunderstood others.
Our Own Perspective Limits Us
Not only does seeing things through only our own perception cause misunderstanding due to the fact that we can often be wrong about the other person’s point – it outright limits us in other ways, too. We cannot progress or go forward effectively until we are open to the another point.
If we are interpreting another person through our own lens, colored by our own perception and understanding, it leads to a complete misunderstanding of the other. I find myself assuming that I know what the other person means. I interpolate, imagining their intentions and what is really going on within them – only to find that it is usually pretty inaccurate. This has caused so many problems for so many people, myself included.
While I know that I have been completely misunderstood at times, I am powerless to change the perspective of another person. Frustration comes from trying to express my real feelings and thoughts – to try and convince another of the way I really see things. Unfortunately, the same thing happens to the other person when we do not see things from their perspective. It doesn’t just cause misunderstanding, but hurt. What we truly have control over is our own willingness to open up and understand.
Changing of our own beliefs is the most difficult type of change.
We can choose to deal with situations of misunderstanding any number of ways. The easy way is to stick with our predisposition of stubbornly maintaining our own point. We can insist that the other person is wrong – because we have already justified or qualified our own point of view. Choosing to handle the issue like that never has a good outcome, though. Aside from hurt, it causes walls of defensiveness to go up in record time – walls that are difficult and take a lot of work to dissemble.
There is Hope…Always
Somewhere inside of us is a kind of uneasiness – maybe even a fear, of being wrong. Change is, by nature, uncomfortable – and to truly allow ourselves to be open to another point of view also opens us to possibly having to admit that we may need to change how we see things, ourselves. Changing of our own beliefs is the most difficult type of change. I can attest to that. So much pain and so many problems could be avoided if we could see things from the others’ perspective first.
Still, the only way to get through misunderstanding productively is to see things from the other perspective – even if we never agree with it. What I am just now coming to realize its that there is actually nothing to fear by opening myself up to seeing things through another’s perspective. It doesn’t mean I am wrong – but it may actually encourage me to modify my own way of seeing things.
Stop worrying about having to accept the other person’s point as reality. It is their reality – it is their perspective. Just see it, realize it, know it, understand it. It is going to take laying aside pride and personal opinion. Listen. Reflect and ask questions. Typically, you will see a change in the other person when you have actually gained an understanding of their perspective because they will begin to open up to you.
A passage in the Bible, found in Romans, talks about endurance producing character and character producing hope. The same can very easily be said for understanding. There is hope through understanding. There is growth. It does create character. Enlightenment. Freedom – to choose how we want to believe, given another perspective in addition to the one we have already owned. And what I hope for the most, is the opportunity of healing and the power to accept another person’s point of view as beautiful, simply because it is a part of them.
As I’ve mentioned before, I am on a journey to becoming a better person, myself. I’ve struggled and taken the hard road through the majority of my life, making wrong turns and bad choices along the way. I’ve probably failed and had more disasters in life than most people my age. Through it all, when the closing call comes, I can only hope to have learned the important lessons I need – and to have shared some things that will help others along the path.