We all view life through our own filtered lens. No matter how objective we try to be, all of our life experiences weigh on our perceptions. This applies to both tangible and intangible perceptions.
When I was a child (kindergarten age) we lived in a little house. Years later (high school age) we moved back into that house while building a new home. When I stepped back into that house I was blown away by my new perception of it. I knew exactly what it was going to look like, but over a decade later EVERYTHING seemed so much smaller. As a young child everything was bigger than I. In my head, that is how I remembered everything. Now that I was grown, the space—though exactly the same size as it had always been—felt much more confined.
I get this same sort of feeling when I am flying in or out of Salt Lake City. When I am on the ground I can find my way around everywhere. I know where things are located relative to other things in the city. I know East from West and 45th South from 106th South. Get me in the air though (especially if I haven’t been paying attention to our approach) and it often takes me a minute to figure out exactly where we are in relation to the valley below.
Think of the Nazca Lines (look it up if you need to). For generations no one even knew they existed. They were just “random” lines on the ground. Maybe they served a purpose at one point, but they didn’t “appear to be anything.” Then, we took to the air and suddenly a completely different (albeit unexplainable) picture revealed itself.
I have found this same “perception shift” to be true with people and relationships. I spent 15 years with the same company until I finally decided I needed a change. Once I removed myself from that environment I saw the disfunction and inequality I had ignored (or overlooked) for far too long. I saw the instability in the whole market I had made home and felt comfortable in for far too long.
Later in life I have been reunited with people I have known years before. I bring all of my old thoughts and perceptions to the beginning of the meeting and am often surprised with what my “new eyes” perceive. I have been on both ends of the spectrum shift. I have reconnected with people and wonder why I was ever friends with them, but also found people who pleasantly surprised me in the change I perceived.
I am not saying any of these experiences are inherently positive or negative, only that taking them in from a different perspective (much like my childhood home or the Salt Lake Valley) can change my own perception and understanding.
This has been most evident with many people I have been closest to. Names and actual experiences aside, changes in my own life have shown me a new perspective of people in my life. In some instances, the new view has brought people closer while dividing further with others.
Being removed form certain people and relationships in my life has illuminated many things which were brought to my attention earlier, but I either couldn’t see or chose to ignore or overlook. Separation from these people has allowed me to see them with “fresh eyes.” People I praised as good or potentially misunderstood have been revealed as the narcissistic, or ignorant, or plain mean individuals others told me they were. Others, I thought were cold or distant—even standoffish—have proven to be the most caring and unconditionally accepting people in my life.
I say this, I guess, to remind myself more than anything else. See, there isn’t much we can do about our perceptions. We are wherever we are in our life. Our relationships are what they are right now. Unless we force a shift somehow, or one is forced upon us by someone or something else, we can’t truly view that relationship objectively. You can’t disconnect with the relationship in order to examine it from the outside unless you truly disconnect from the relationship.
I encourage you, and myself, to do everything possible to be objective. When someone else gives you their opinion of someone or something don’t simply dismiss it because it conflicts with your own. Try to understand it and perhaps gain more understanding. There is a reason they feel and perceive what they do. You may still disagree in the end, but you also might find out later that you agree with them—when your own life view changes somehow.
I once apologized to someone even though I knew with every fiber of my being it wasn’t sincere. I was accused of being "unjust" and informed the other person "deserved" an apology from me. As I was making my “heart-felt” apology, my internal moral compass was spinning erratically. My mouth was saying one thing while my head was saying something else. I made the apology because someone else, with a completely different perception, felt it was warranted. For the sake of keeping their perception in tact (because of the relationship) I made the apology.
Years later, while I don’t regret the faux apology, I have learned not to make the same decision going forward. While an explanation of my knowledge and understanding might have rocked another’s reality, I didn’t do them any favors by remaining silent. I also didn’t do any favors to the person to whom I apologized. They were able to move forward with their own perception they had been wronged.
It isn’t wrong to inform others of your own point of view. They may agree or disagree with you. They may have more (or a different) understanding that you do. The incongruity of your perceptions can open a dialogue to help each of you grow and understand more.
I know I want my point of view to be as broad and well informed as possible and believe others deserve the same consideration. The truth is, they may not want it. It isn’t for me to decide for them though. I can give the information, considering I would want it if roles were reversed. What they do with it, and how it informs their own point of view is completely up to them.