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?
Grace: This was so interesting to me, and when I read it, I first thought, “Wow, great for Grace, but not for me”. There are some folks who bug me so much, I’m not getting into it….and, if they’re going to be so stubborn, and just sit there, I’m not bothering with them. Well!!!!!! The Holy Spirit is not going to let us away with that kind of thinking. When I read this, I thought of some of the women I avoid regularly because, “I don’t like the looks of them, or how I perceive them to be (from a distance)”. I began to think, well, What if some of those women have amazing stories to tell?” Friday evening, we attended a dinner in the same location where we meet all the same people (from a certain church). There we all were in the room, all for the same reason………..There would be a speaker, music, fellowship and the tables were all set up for the dinner. I sat down, hoping to avoid everyone, but remembering what I’d read here. The first woman I saw is someone I didn’t want to approach. I got up and went over to her and said hello, and it was wonderful that we could attend this dinner. She began talking and talking and talking and she told story after story and, “in previous years, she and her husband did this, and took supplies to Cuba, and sang together, and did this and ……………”. I was amazed. I never knew…….never imagined this of her (of them). She was so full of life as she told everything, and then I was glad that I obeyed the Holy Spirit. I thanked her for sharing and I was simply “taken” by all the things she told me. She whirled around and headed for their table, spun around and waved at me, and went to her chair. Wow Wow
Thanks for sharing this story, Marge. Beautiful. You’re beautiful.
My response to your blog on misperceptions is a little late but here goes anyway. Thank you for your words of wisdom on this subject and how true they are. My husband and I just returned from our annual trip to Mexico. As I was lounging by the adult pool in the resort reading my book, I couldn’t resist peering over my reading glasses to watch some of my fellow “snowbirds” enjoying their tropical vacation. That is what gets me into trouble every time because my unkind” judging mode” kicks in. Oh so many people my age (65+) who are so overweight and out of shape. Bad me for thinking this way but there it is. I found myself entertaining ungracious thoughts about the incredible extra poundage on these people without even considering their individual stories. Who am I to judge when God doesn’t judge me!! Even if am able to keep my weight down and stay in shape (not without a struggle) then why can’t other people do the same?? It’s not for me to be making rash judgements; it’s my job to love. Thanks for teaching me a very valuable lesson Grace. Your timing while I was in Mexico was perfect! God Bless.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Sylvia. I appreciate your taking the time to do so. And I appreciate your honesty. I so often find my thoughts heading that same direction. More often than not, nowadays, I catch myself and realize how ridiculous my thoughts are. And they’re probably dead wrong, too!