Ever say something and have someone disagree with you? Do they ever tell you exactly what you think, and what your motives are? Mind readers. The world is full of them. Unfortunately.
When others attack my viewpoint, or what I believe is true, it seems almost futile to add more opinion and debate. More words are like clumsy chunks of clay. When another repeatedly hammers me with a spew of disagreement, I can get discouraged--very discouraged. In these situations, I try to be as clear, honest and sincere as I know how to be. I don't want to alienate anyone. However, if you vehemently disagree with me about one thing, it's more than likely you'll oppose my view on about everything else. It's hard to separate a deep-seated negative perception and make room for a positive one, don't you think?
It's kinda like folks who don't go to church because they think it's filled with hypocrites. Some negative encounter has left such a bad taste in their mouths, they cannot see the good that is done by the folks who attend church in their communities. They never know about the food-banks, the clothes closets, the love for their children, the emphasis on family, the relief and support offered in times of crisis or grief. They just know that old Joe-Schmo was meaner than a snake on Monday after attending church on Sunday. So their perception of "church" is Joe-Schmo, not sincere people with their own personal problems who come together to worship God and gain strength to meet those difficulties throughout the week. That's just one example of perception gone wild.
Politics is another. Woe be unto us if we try to get others to hear us if they know we are one of those democrats or republicans. The ad wars with Romney and Obama have already started. It's nigh onto impossible to watch another viewpoint or solution when we've already formed our own and are not willing to listen. So what do we do? Ignore the fact that we have to make a choice next November because we aren't willing to explore the options?
Sometimes we are unintentionally perceived by others as angry or combative--not because we are, but because of the other's own state of mind and emotions. They are already miserable. They are already hurt. They have their own agendas. They don't trust Joe-Schmo. So they cannot possibly understand our view because it is viewed through tainted lenses. Their minds are made up, their opinions are unshakeable. When others misrepresent what we say or think, our minds spring into defensive mode. It's a natural response to an opposing viewpoint.
When writing about people's fears, David Jeremiah, publisher and president of Turning Point Ministries, said: "Perception is reality in most people's minds." Another's perception of us is their reality--no matter what we say, they know we are wrong because they think we are wrong. Even when we repeat our meaning, define ourselves more clearly, present facts and evidence, the perception that others hold regarding us, cements a reality for them that cannot be blasted from the grips of their settled minds. Communication is like trying to remove a rubberband from the confines of cement; it breaks every time. We only get stung by our effort. If our task or goal is worthy enough, we do whatever needs doing to help others see the danger ahead, and the value in changing their minds. That said, we still need to be realistic. Some folks don't want to hear another side; they let their past experience dictate the rest of their life. After all, to them, perception is reality.