I can’t tell you how many times I heard myself and peers being told to “get some perspective” while I was growing up. Most of the time, the person making this statement wants you to try to see the bigger picture, to obtain a wider view of events and make more informed decisions based on that wider perspective.
However, the best view in the world is meaningless if the perspective is coming from the wrong angle.
A couple of years ago, two men at the congregation I used to worship at requested to speak with me privately. I obliged, and they questioned me about what I was doing on my computer during sermons. The tones of their voices heavily inferred they suspected me playing games or working on something else while the lesson was progressing. I informed them (I’m sure with some tenseness in my voice) that I was taking notes of the sermon, thankyouverymuch.
At the time, I was angry at these individuals for questioning me. You see, I had already been using my laptop to take notes for over a year when they decided to question me. If they were concerned, why on earth had they not spoke with me sooner? Prior to using the laptop, I had used a pen and spiral notebook, but I write very slowly, and I began experiencing cramping in my right hand due to how tightly I hold pens and pencils. Since, being a fairly fast typist, I was already using my laptop to take notes in many of my college classes, expanding that to church was no problem. How dare they question my efforts to study more deeply when most people in churches sit, looking like passive daydreamers, during sermons – making no externally visible effort to retain or record the information being given?
In this story, perspectives needed to change in two places.
- The physical perspective of these individuals in the building usually did not allow them to see my note taking. You know how people mark out territory on church pews. Their normal territory and my normal territory were not in each other’s line of sight. Therefore, neither of them had likely ever seen me typing notes prior to this night. I was sitting in a different place from usual because I had come in late.
- My cognitive perspective needed changing. I was irate with them because I assumed they had been seeing my typing going on for months. Once I realized they were probably seeing my computer out for the first time and that they were approaching me as the result of concern for my spiritual well-being – once I looked at the situation from their perspectives – my anger quickly diminished.
Matthew 18:15-20 lays out how we are to deal with a brother that has wronged us. However, I think we take this to the degree at times that we feel justified making big issues out of hurt feelings. I have never spoken to the brothers involved with the story above, and there is not need to. They meant no harm. In fact, their hearts were very much in the right place. It wasn’t lack of perspective that blinded me to this initially. It was that I was not looking at the situation from the correct perspective at all.
When you feel hurt by something someone says or does, don’t go to them immediately to try and work it out. First, take a step back and see if there really is an issue at all. See if you can find out where he or she is coming from. If you can see things from their perspective, no confrontation may be needed, and isn’t that the best resolution?
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” • Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird