Summary: Too many people think their perception is reality but it must be subjected to the truth or it can become extremely dangerous.
Wrong Perceptions Should Be Subjected to Truth (Matthew 15:15-17)
Matthew 15:17-20 (New International Version)
17"Don't you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.' 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what make a man 'unclean'.
Conflicts arise when two people insist on their own perception of reality thinking they are based in truth. However, there are millions of perceptions in the world. On any issue one can find several competing perceptions all equally difficult to evaluate. In conflicts we may have clashes of personalities between an insecure-sensitive melancholy who feels manipulated by a goal oriented choleric because of their differences of perception. Each person may sincerely desire what is best but we must surrender our desires to the will of God in order to maintain love, unity and resolve potential conflicts.
Our perceptions tell us as much about ourselves as they do about the issue perceived. When a person criticizes someone or something it may come from a negative perception that is a precursor to judgment. Jesus warned us not to judge lest we be judged ourselves. (Matt. 7:1,2) Let us look at several ways that faulty perceptions weakens ourselves, others and our organizations unnecessarily.
We are prone to exaggerate, to magnify our perception in order to convince people we are right. Most of us are adept at magnifying the negative which often leads us to make the situation worse than it actually is. Paul tells us to not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer, supplication with thanksgiving let our requests be made known to God and the peace of God that passes comprehension will keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-8)
2. Selective Memory
We often omit considerations unfavorable to our position. We selectively direct the conversation to areas that are favorable to what pleases us. James teaches us that the source of our quarrels and conflicts is our own desires that wage war in our members. We lust and do not have so we fight and quarrel. We envy and do not obtain so we squabble. The source of our problem is our selective desire to have something that perhaps God has not intended for us to have. (James 4:1-5)
3. Black and White Polarizing Thinking
We commonly think if absolute terms. Someone might say, "He is impossible to work with or everyone is against me." People are much more nuanced based on their culture, gender, age, personality or level of maturity.
4. Wrong Conclusions
We often misinterpret what we see or hear or experience. Some people take things too personally and become frustrated, upset or angry because a small disagreement. When people take statement too personally or interpret something as hostile they let something flame into a fiery conflict because of faulty perception. We need to avoid rushing to judgment allowing the Lord to evaluate, judge and draw conclusions to every person or event or statement. Remember, judgment belongs to the Lord.
5. Reacting to People Based on Past Associations
Sometimes we react negatively to people based on a bad experience from the past. Our previous hurtful encounters remind us of something that provokes a problem from the past that conjures up bad feelings and perceptions. Paul tells us to forget the things which are behind and reach forward to what lies ahead. (Phil. 3:8-14)
6. Projecting Our Feelings to Another
Someone may interpret your sadness as resentment because they are resentful. Others may interpret your opposition to anger because they are angry. This is often done from an unconscious position. Jesus said, "To the pure all things are pure. To the unclean all things are unclean."
We often come to broad conclusions without adequate evidence. After a bad experience we may say,"I will never loan that person money again or anyone else for that matter. From now on everyone will have to prove their trustworthiness before I trust them." When people are armed with too many distorted perceptions they are liable to engage in conflicts of all types.
Consequences of Faulty Perceptions:
1. Attack Mode
Some people think that a good offense is a good defense so they begin to criticize and undermine others with their words. When people complain about others they are often attacking them for different perceptions.
Listen to the Paul's directive on this matter:
4Who art thou that judges the servant of another? to his own lord he stands or falls. Yea, he shall be made to stand; for the Lord hath power to make him stand. 5One man esteems one day above another: another esteems every day alike. Let each man be fully assured in his own mind. 6He that regards the day, regards it unto the Lord: and he that eats, eats unto the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he that eats not, unto the Lord he eats not, and gives God thanks. 7For none of us lives to himself, and none dies to himself. 8For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. 9For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 10But thou, why dost thou judge thy brother? or thou again, why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of God. 11For it is written,