Have you ever had a wrong perception of someone? I have. A couple of years ago while speaking at an Eastern European woman’s event, I met an elderly woman who seemed aloof. To my fault, I made no effort to get to know her.
Halfway through the weekend, one of the attendees asked me to join her and the senior lady for tea. I obliged. To my amazement, the elderly lady opened up and began sharing stories from her past. She’d survived years in a concentration camp! She told of hiding pages of the Bible in the barracks where she lived as a teenager, and of coming to know Christ as her Savior in that prison.
I listened, captured by her clarity and depth, and sorry for the way I’d misjudged her. My perception—based on nothing more than an initial impression—had been completely wrong. And it nearly cost me the unforgettable experience of hearing her survivor stories firsthand.
Joseph’s brothers were guilty of doing something similar. When their father died, they expected the worst from Joseph. Genesis 50:5 says they became fearful: “Now Joseph will show his anger and pay us back for all the wrong we did to him,” they said (v. 15).
In reality, Joseph had shown only kindness to them and their families. He’d provided food and resettled them in a place of abundance. He’d given no reason for them to think he’d seek revenge, but their imaginations told them otherwise. Their perception of Joseph was all wrong, based on their own issues, namely, their lingering guilt for betraying him years prior.
The human nature is complicated, isn’t it?
We form opinions about other people based on false impressions. We judge their character based on wrong information. We presume wrongly through the lens of our own unresolved issues. When we do such things, we lose out. We could be enjoying a healthy relationship but we build walls instead.
So how can we avoid making misperceptions about other people?
- By admitting our tendency to form wrong conclusions.
- By acknowledging that we often reach those wrong conclusions by seeing other people through the lens of our own emotional baggage.
- By dealing with that emotional baggage. Doing so allows us to experience inner freedom and paves the way for enjoying healthy relationships.
- By asking God to cleanse us from our tendency to judge and to fill us with His unconditional love for others.
Thankfully my experience with the Eastern European lady taught me a valuable lesson, and I have a hunch that Joseph’s brothers learned a thing or two when he proved their fears unfounded. My desire is to see people as God sees them, not as through my defective lens. I want to think the best rather than assume the worst. By God’s grace, He’ll enable me to do that so I don’t miss out on the blessing that comes from building relationships with others.
How about you? Have you ever formed a wrong opinion of someone? If so, how was that opinion proved wrong?