Overcoming Selective Perception – Where National Geographic’s Camera Got It Right But The Comment Got It Wrong

Jennifer and I often find ourselves driving down a road that we’ve traveled thousands of times (literally), when we notice a new house, an old building gone, or a large change in the landscape.

“Woah, I never noticed that!”

The more frequent the road for us, the more startling the change to us. Sometimes we just look at each other, incredulous.

“How are we so blind that we didn’t notice that?

Just this week, one of us (I won’t say who) noticed that an entire nursing home, complete with out buildings and an admin wing, had been torn down.

For eight months.

If you’re chuckling right now, it means you’ve had similar experiences, which means none of us are alone in this condition.

This same effect, however, can also play out on much more meaningful subjects.

People.

A National Geographic photo posted on their Instagram account this morning is a prime example:

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I felt compelled to comment:

@find_ch forget climate change; what about the immediate caustic effects of those walking through it?

@wiccat Agree to you!!

@wiccat thanks for the kind comment. I think sometimes we can get so caught up in generalizations, especially if they suit our own ambitions, that we fail to notice (or comment on) the thing that’s staring us right in the face. This is a perfect example. The climate’s changing? OK, the jury’s still out even as to why. But right now, I see a beautiful girl who’s walking through carcinogenic smoke—and that’s not the lead line? [sigh]

Exclusive perception.

We tend to see what we want to see. The object of our passion becomes the blinders to our perception by distorting reality. We don’t notice the obvious because in our own distorted reality, the obvious thing literally isn’t there. We’re induced into a state of virtual blindness.

We need healing.

Usually this comes in the form of a good coach (some who “sees” more than we do), an epiphany from God (a revelation found in spiritual awakening), or a jarring life experience that snaps us out of our stupor (a visit to Cambodia, let’s say).

Such “wake up calls” help us then divest ourselves from a singular passion and reinvest in a passion that is itself inclusive—that has many passions within it. But, since we can’t be poly-sighted in every scenario, we must make a values call by becoming passionate about the right issues.

What are the right issues, you ask? Aren’t those utterly subjective?

The right issues are those that always place the needs of hurting people, all people, above politics and policy, no matter how revered. A politic that itself has missed the care of a person is a flawed politic, and therefore a flawed virtue. Because the needs of hurting people are always the right issue to champion.

There is no more noble cause, no more clearer lens through which to view the world, than to empathize with another individual and meet their need. It is precisely what King Jesus did for humanity, and it’s the lifestyle lens that helps us overcome bureaucracy with benevolence.

The only set of flawless virtues that I know of are not those of any present nation or civil contract; though there are plenty of good working models, even the best is far from adequate. For even a system that proves idealistic for one people group turns out to be hostile for another, since there is nothing in civil contract that can inherently transform the condition of the human heart.

The kingdom lens.

The values of the kingdom of God are universal (they are best for all mankind, everywhere, regardless of race or culture), they are eternal (they have everlasting effects on the individual), and they are inherited (not earned, but gifted, sometimes even to those who aren’t aware of the Gift Giver—such is the largess of grace). The kingdom is in fact the superior and supreme ideology and methodology in serving humans out of our collective depravity.

It’s how we see.

It’s how we perceive.

When our passion becomes Jesus, our values become kingdom ones, and our empathy becomes action. Because, for the first time, we don’t see a mission. We don’t see a cause or a campaign.

We see a face.

Christopher

“But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.”

James the Just

  • dude. dude. spot. on. I think that is why Jesus was so compassionate. He truly loved the people he saw, therefore he could meet them on their terms, with no agenda other than to love them, to elevate them, to reveal the Father’s love for them, to no credit of His own.

    • And why I pray we can become more like him. Thanks for the encouragement.