How Your Perception Impacts Reality

Good morning from Westminster, Maryland!

Are you familiar with the saying, “perception is reality”? As someone who works in the customer service industry it something I hear and talk about often. When working with a customer, their perception of a situation can be as important, or sometimes even more important, than what actually happened. In other words, while a person’s perception may or may not be the actual reality, it is their reality, impacting the way they approach the situation at hand. Could the same be true about people? Could our perception of someone impact the way we treat them?

Before spending significant time in Nicaragua, I had a certain perception of people living in impoverished communities and countries. It was not that I disliked them but rather that I unconsciously assumed people living in poverty were “less than” me. Does that sound harsh to you? Well, before you judge me, consider your reactions and assumptions about someone holding a sign on a street corner, or a child in a Catholic Charities commercial. Do you look at them as equals, or do you see them as lower on the social hierarchy than you? A great way to find out is to honestly ask yourself if you could see yourself in the same position if your circumstance were different. You could also flip it and ask yourself if you could imagine them in your position if their circumstances were different. In my book, Hope Realized, I suggest “being curious” by asking yourself these types of questions as a valuable step in getting engaged in bringing hope to others.

When I began to spend more time in Nicaragua, build relationships with people in the communities I was visiting, and become more curious about their circumstances, poverty went from a concept to a name. No longer was a person living in poverty something I viewed from the comfort of my car window or TV. It was now a friend with a name. As this transformation happened in my mind, I began to realize that people living in poverty had just as much God-given potential as I did, and our circumstances could have just as easily been reversed had our stories been different. This also forced me to ask hard questions about the way I had perceived people living in poverty to this point, and how I would view the world moving forward. Sometimes we avoid this step because it is uncomfortable and we are concerned about what it says about our character. However, I have found challenging these preconceptions to be freeing, not condemning. Realizing the God-given potential of people in poverty produced more hope in me for our broken world.

Now back to the question I asked at the beginning: Could our perception of someone impact the way we treat them? I have found the answer to this question to be yes. To say it another way, the way we treat someone is impacted by the way we perceive them. If we believe someone is full of God-given potential, we will treat them accordingly. However, if we believe they are hopeless, destined for a life of “less than”, we will treat them as such.

This plays a big role in the way we address poverty and whether or not we even believe there is hope for change. If we see someone as full of God-given potential waiting to be realized, even if their current reality says otherwise, we will be far more likely to create real opportunities through long-term investment. This speaks to the spiritual hope, or reframed identity, element of real, all-in hope. Creating real change starts with believing change is possible. This is far more likely if we believe the person we are investing in was created by a God who loves them on purpose and with a purpose, just like you.

Did you real that last line? Just like you. This reality does not apply only to people living in poverty. It applies to everyone we interact with, yourself included. You will treat them, and yourself, the way you perceive them (yourself). It is worth asking yourself this question. Your answer could be standing in the way of something beautiful.

Do you want to make a difference in the life of someone else? Get curious. Begin to ask yourself hard questions, starting with how you perceive them. Would you like more thoughts on this as well as other steps to begin making a difference in someone else’s life? Click here to sign up to receive the free resource I created, 5 Foundational Steps to Make a True Difference in Someone’s Life.

There is hope for this world. Do you perceive it that way?

James Belt

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