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FIRST-PERSON: Perception vs. reality

SHELBYVILLE, Ky. (BP) — People say, “Get it in writing,” but one thing we rarely get down on paper is what someone really thinks of us.

We have encounters with co-workers and friends, children and their friends throughout each day. We watch body language and facial expressions. We hear words that are spoken.

Regardless of our stage in life, whether young or old, we sometimes make assumptions about how people feel about us. These assumptions can be accurate but often they are not. Some examples:

— Depending on how your day is going and how you feel about your performance and “place” in the world, you may too quickly assume people dislike or reject you.

— Depending on how another person’s day is going, they may too quickly communicate frustration or disgust — but it has nothing to do with how much they like or accept you. It has just been a long or hard day for them.

— Depending on how important a positive interaction or a person’s approval is to you, you may look for or expect warm words or expressions that end up being absent — and your perception becomes skewed about both your value and the other person’s heart.

The reality is that our perceptions get mixed up. We can literally change what we think of our value several times a day based on people’s responses to us — and we can jump to some pretty nasty conclusions about our unsuspecting associates, too. It is sad when our perceptions affect our personal joy and self-acceptance and when they break down relationships.

Unfortunately, we can’t walk around with giant placards: “These are my love languages…. Here are past wounds I deal with…. This is what happened today…. Please communicate to me like this so that I can receive what you are saying…” Maybe that would help us relate to one another better, or maybe not, since it is a rare companion who cares enough to see what is really happening on the inside, to value your heart, to understand and encourage. I hope we work to be friends like that, people who offer others the great treasure of grace.

However, far more important than how we perceive the responses of others is learning to live without dependency on them.

Your heavenly Father, the great Jehovah who designed the universe, has written down what He has decided about your value and place in this world: He decided you were important and loved enough to put on flesh for, to endure the cross for, and to make a present and future plan for. He didn’t leave anything in your life untouched by His grace or His Word. That’s why we must read the Bible for ourselves, so that we will know the reality of the immeasurable worth He bought for us.

In Luke 10, Jesus listened to the disciples reporting on their successes. They had been traveling around in pairs, preaching about Him. The disciples were excited that they had authority over demons. In verse 20, though, Jesus told them to be more grateful, more aware of their identity as God’s beloved children than as preachers or even as those to whom demons submit.

I think what Jesus wanted them to know is that the most important thing we can learn to call ourselves is His. This identity of belonging to Him and being loved by Him is more powerful and lasting than any other relationship or achievement. (If you are not sure you belong to Him and that your name is written in heaven, please send me a note at www.womenwithroots.com/contact.html so we can talk about it.)

I am writing on this because a young friend of mine is feeling quite alone. She feels awkward and friendless, especially at school. Sweet little one — and you, sweet sister — why spend any time at all worrying whether this or that person likes you? You have a Father and Friend far superior to anyone else in existence who says you are special.

He wrote it down, so there would be no question.