The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings. — (Jeremiah 17:9-10 / NKJV).
Have you ever heard the adage, “My perception is my reality”? What I’ve found to be true is that perception, just like first impressions, can be terribly wrong.
We Are Our Own Worst Enemy
To be clear, perception is defined as the way you think about or understand someone or something; a mental image; quick, acute, and intuitive cognition.
However, having a mental image of something or someone may or may not coincide with reality. In honestly looking at my perceptions about various things, I find it is often clouded by my upbringing, life experiences, biases and prejudices, judgmentalism, and other internal lenses. Depending on whether these situations were good or bad also paints either a rosier or bleaker perception.
For example, if I had a wonderful upbringing, I may unconsciously perceive everyone had a wonderful upbringing. If I experienced a devastating divorce or an unfaithful spouse, my perception of marriage may be poor. If I enjoyed a fantastic marriage, I may not understand why other people struggle in their marriages. If I was betrayed by someone close, I may perceive everyone as disloyal. If I’ve never been falsely accused or betrayed, I may perceive everyone is honorable with the best of intentions. If a parent or loved one died, my perception may be one of deep loss — and I may subconsciously be unwilling to allow myself to get close to anyone else for fear I may experience another loss. I may also project my unresolved grief on other family members or loved ones.
The reality is, I have been falsely accused and betrayed — and consequently have withdrawn from fully disclosing myself. I have experienced severe heartbreak — and have withdrawn from being fully vulnerable. I have experienced the loss of loved ones — and have become less emotionally attached as a protection against feeling that pain again. I have been dissatisfied with my physique — and have developed an unhealthy focus on being healthy.
Do you see how the heart and mind can mislead us by misrepresenting reality based on subjective perceptions that have been tinged by past experiences?
Yes, reality sometimes hurts. People sometimes do break our hearts. Sometimes people we deeply care about die. Sometimes we are dissatisfied with how we look. But not always. We must guard against our past situations and experiences so clouding our perception that an erroneous perception becomes our new (and skewed) reality. Sure, our past can be an excellent learning tool. But that shouldn’t keep us from living and learning in the present moment free from misconceptions or the proverbial jumping to conclusions.
We Have Another Enemy
In addition to our own deceptive hearts and clouded minds, there are demonic enemies who consistently grab comfy chairs beside us, place their sneering lips close to our ears, and whisper-hiss their doubt. They fuel our unfounded fears, hurl false accusations, bring up our forgiven past mistakes, point out our physical flaws, relive the heartbreak of loves lost, and on and on they go. This is all part of the spiritual battle that wages full scale in our minds to skew our perception of reality, to discourage, disable, and defeat us, and to keep us from fully and joyfully fulfilling the purpose God has for each of us.
Overcoming the Deception
So how do you fight the “deception of perception”? The overall goal is to manage your perception to ensure it aligns with reality. You accomplish this by asking for “reality checks” from trusted sources and by aligning your mindset with God’s Word.
A trusted source could be a close friend who helps point out blind spots in your life or thought processes. This person should be someone strong enough to give you honest feedback about anything — even the tough subjects. He or she could caution you against having a judgmental perspective, an unforgiving spirit, a fear of trusting or becoming vulnerable, or a skewed mental picture of yourself. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). But you must be willing to hear and accept this person’s insight. All the constructive feedback in the world will do no good unless you apply it to your life.
God has given us a wealth of information on how to “fight the good fight” (I Timothy 6:12) and to wage our spiritual warfare. First, put on the whole armor of God so you can “stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11). Then, as Jesus did when Satan tempted Him in the wilderness, for every situation our enemy throws in your face, respond with, “It is written…” Here are just a few examples:
- When you have a poor self image — “It is written …” You are fearfully and marvelously made in God’s image (Psalm 139 13-16; Genesis 2:7).
- When you judge others based on deceptive perception — “It is written …” Do not judge based on your prejudices or misconceptions. Jesus said, “Judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24).
- When you feel like an unworthy Christian — “It is written …” You are a blood-bought child of the King and joint-heir with Jesus (Romans 8:15-17).
- When you live with a grief-stricken heart — “It is written …” God heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3).
- When you live with guilt — “It is written …” God removes forgiven sin as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).
Keen intuition and insightful perception are invaluable gifts from God. They can serve you well in your career, personal life, and the purpose God has for you to fulfill. But take it from someone who has learned the hard way: It is wise to periodically perform a “self check” to make sure your perceptions align with reality — better yet, that they align with God’s Word.
What perception(s) are you willing to “self check” today?