People perceive things in different ways. In this study we will be examining perceptions, their value, and how they can have an affect on our life each day.
What are Perceptions?
- Things you Comprehend
- Awareness or Understanding
How are Perceptions formed?
- Experiences in life (everyday living)
- Experiences with people (both excellent and poor)
- Knowledge (information: accurate or inaccurate)
- Culture and Society (from the church and the world)
- Attitudes (friendly or unfriendly… relating to people or things)
- Interests (things people like to do)
- From the perceptions of others (approval or disapproval)
Consider the image below that describes how perceptions are formed. Follow each of the four steps around the circle several times to see also how perceptions can be strengthened and perpetuated.
The Perceptions Circle
Step #1 begins with a personal experience being made. The experience may be an excellent one, or it may be difficult.
It is possible to make an experience where you find the result wasn’t particularly good or bad. You might say that perhaps it was an indifferent one.
In Step #2 after the experience (and sometimes even during the time it’s being made), impressions and perceptions of the event begin to be formed. Depending on what the experience was, and how it was responded to, perceptions will be further developed.
In Steps #3 and 4 choices are made regarding the way to respond to these perceptions, both now, and for the future. If the experience, and the perception of it, was good, then we might choose to respond in a positive way, which can lead to more and better experiences and stronger, good, impressions. These can in turn lead us to choose to repeat the experience and thus perpetuate the thing we enjoyed.
If, on the other hand, the experience made was different, and the impressions and perceptions of it lead toward the negative side… then the choice as to whether or not to go through the experience again is more difficult to consider, or repeat. Think about this in relation to experiences that are made with people you know. If your perceptions of these people are good, then there is a tendency to want to be with them and make more good experiences. If, for some reason the experiences begin to change, and things aren’t so nice… perceptions have a way of changing too… and the choices made can affect personal encounters being considered for the future.
You’ll discover later in this study some ways to break into the negative part of this perception cycle and create some positive improvements in personal relationships, but first… Let’s look at some examples of perceptions in action. What you are about to review is only a small part of a much larger picture relating to people whose lives, experiences, and character, were recorded in the Bible.
It is interesting to note the differences in their perceptions:
Moses (Great Leader of Israel)
How many people today perceive Moses: Strong, faithful leader, greatly honored by God.
How Moses perceived himself: Not believable, eloquent or a good speaker. Exodus 4:1, 10
How God perceived Moses: Able to do a great work with God’s help.
Jeremiah (Prophet of God)
How people today often perceive Jeremiah: As a Prophet of God, faithful and true.
How Jeremiah perceived himself: As a child-unable to speak. Jeremiah 1:6
How God perceived Jeremiah: Able to do great things with God’s direction. Jeremiah 1:4, 5, 7-9
Elijah (Prophet of God):
How people today often perceive Elijah: As a faithful Prophet; greatly honored by God.
How some others in his time perceived him: As the trouble-maker of Israel.
1 Kings 18:17
How Elijah perceived himself: As the only faithful soul left in the world; worn out and ready to die. 1 Kings 19:4, 14
How Elijah perceived others: As uncommitted and unfaithful to God.
1 Kings 18:21, 22
How God perceived Elijah: In need of some rest, food, strength, a new commission, and a place in heaven. 1 Kings 19:7, 15
Mary Magdalene: (An early Christian convert with a dark past life)
How people today might have perceived Mary: As an adulteress woman, who had intimate relations with leaders of the church; perhaps a prostitute; certainly not someone considered to have a good character; not someone they would want to be seen associating with.
How some others perceived her: As an immoral woman, needing to be condemned. John 8:3, 4
How she perceived herself: As guilty; but saying nothing in her own defense.
How Jesus perceived her: Forgiven of her sin; uncondemned; someone to have compassion on. John 8:10, 11
As has been demonstrated, people perceive things in different ways. In order to understand something people select what they want to hear. They usually don’t attend to everything that is spoken. They filter out information and consider only what seems important. What you think is important may not be perceived as important by someone else.
Consider a typical childhood experience in America (or another country)
Scene One: Mom calls – but the child doesn’t seem to hear. There’s no response. The child isn’t deaf, or beyond the sound of Mom’s voice, but chooses instead not to respond for one reason or another.
Scene Two: The sound of music from an ice cream truck offering treats is heard in the neighborhood – the same child who was deaf to Mom’s call a moment ago would probably hear, and respond, quickly to the sound of the truck even if it was still several blocks away.
What made the difference? Was it the sound of the truck’s music, or the hope of receiving a sweet treat that was perceived as important? We’re not sure. It might have been both.
And what about Mom’s voice? Wasn’t that an important sound to respond to also? Yes; but one never knows what Mom might be offering (an end of playtime, a bath, homework to do, etc.)… The ice cream truck, on the other hand, contains things that could be counted on for some immediate enjoyment. Our perceptions of things vary; and they are important.
How negative perceptions can change
It’s important to understand that negative perceptions which have been formed in the past are not necessarily destined to remain that way… with effort and cooperation the usual results of the cycle can be changed, and in some cases the cycle can be broken. The outcome rests with the choices that are made after the impression and perception forming process has begun.
Because someone has made a difficult experience, or has a negative perception of the event, doesn’t mean that every encounter has to be negative.
You can choose to act differently than might be expected.
You can show love and kindness, when hatred or rejection might be expected.
You can try to look deeper into the experience and see if it was perceived correctly, or what might have been done to change the outcome.
There are as many possibilities as there are experiences to be made… but the decision regarding how to respond is yours.
It may sometimes seem, on the surface, easier just to avoid having to repeat a difficult encounter with someone, or go through a trying experience again; but with a good understanding and attitude, a repeated experience can end up to one of life’s greatest blessings.
Everything depends on your decision and response. For the Christian, God’s ways are always best, and it’s always safe to ask: What would Jesus think, and do, if He were in my place at this moment? How would He respond? What decision would He make in this situation? It may be difficult, but it’s usually not hopeless…
“…With God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
Consider some ways in which people are perceived.
How people perceive you… and… How you perceive others:
- Good, or bad
- Valuable, or worthless
- Intelligent, or lacking intelligence
- Wise, or foolish
- Spiritual, or worldly
- A friend, or a danger
How you perceive yourself:
- Valuable, or worthless
- Profitable, or unprofitable
- With great potential, or empty, with nothing to share
- Strong, or weak and fearful
- Able to be saved, or a lost soul
- Intelligent, or lacking knowledge and understanding
How you think others perceive you:
- Usually not the same as you believe they do.
How you perceive God:
- Loving and kind, or angry and vengeful
- Understanding and patient
- Concerned or uninterested, and preoccupied
How God really perceives people:
- Differently than they expect.
…For the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks on the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7
How people sometimes think God perceives them:
- Usually in a different way than He really does if the impression people have of themselves, or their impression of Him, isn’t what it needs to be.
Do you think is it important to study about perceptions? Why?
Sometimes the ways in which we perceive things can cause problems. What exactly is the problem? Some say people are the problem. In reality, people are not the problem; people have problems. The ways you perceive yourself, others, God, and the world around you, can affect your daily life:
- How you live …a productive or unproductive life
- How you choose to work …actively or inactively
- How you interact with others around you
- …socially or unsocially; cooperatively or uncooperatively
- How you mature … with balance or imbalanced
- How you generally progress in life …moving ahead, or falling behind
Standing still usually means going backwards… Let’s move forward!
This article was written by Chris Teske
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