I sometimes wonder whether I would recognise myself if I were to see myself in the street one day. The only way I have ever perceived myself is through an image I have carried in my own mind, or through a two-dimensional representation in a photo or mirror. We all know how confronting it can be to experience watching oneself on video, or seeing a picture of yourself. We all carry a particular perception of ourselves – a perception which might be starkly different from reality, yet which we fail to perceive, and which we therefore would find difficult to change. As long as we remain unaware, we are unable to do anything to address it.
But this is not only true of the physical aspects of how we present ourselves. It is not always easy to understand how we appear to others in conversation: the words that we choose, the ways we choose to express them, along with the very things we choose not to express, leave ourselves as somewhat of a mystery to others, and to ourselves. Others’ perceptions of our motives, our ideals, and our goals may be starkly different from reality.
And there are always pressures to adopt standards, to make choices, and to walk pathways which are foreign to us. It is by the choices that we make in such circumstances that people shape their perception of us. But the conclusions formed may not always be accurate (I’m reflecting, you’re a little quiet, but they are moody and sullen… I’m reconsidering, you’re changing your mind, but they are going back on their word…!)
When Jesus showed compassion for those less fortunate, it was a negative mark against him by the religious leaders of the day. When he spoke of healing on the Sabbath, he was regarded as a law-breaker. When he was crucified many thought he had wasted his time and lost all. In the end, no-one else can ever truly and fully perceive who we are. But we must be able to look ourselves in the eye and know that we have been true to ourselves and true to the beliefs which undergird that. For the christian that means being true to the calling of Jesus
Which is perhaps why Jesus encouraged us with the words “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It seems they walk in the footsteps of Jesus.
May 18, 2003