Perception vs. Perspective: How to Adjust Your View to Restore Your Faith

Perception and perspective are very powerful. They drive everything we do. Perception is how we receive information, and it’s driven by our personality, beliefs, and experiences. Our perspective, on the other hand, is where we’re standing and the viewpoint from which we see things. These are very closely related but aren’t the same thing. They …

Perception and perspective are very powerful. They drive everything we do.

Perception is how we receive information, and it’s driven by our personality, beliefs, and experiences.

Our perspective, on the other hand, is where we’re standing and the viewpoint from which we see things.

These are very closely related but aren’t the same thing. They do, however, work together to determine our opinions about life.

For example, if a white man and a black man walk into a store together and another white man looks in their direction from across the room and says, “Hey, boy,” then the black man is very likely to get offended. The white man standing next to him probably isn’t going to be offended, and if he is, it’s not nearly on the same level. This is because the black man is more likely to connect that statement to a derogatory statement historically made by slave owners. Because of this perception that’s based on one person’s experiences and upbringing, this could potentially be a bad situation.

However, what if the black man then turns around and realizes that the man was speaking to a small boy behind him who appears to be his son? Suddenly, the statement doesn’t seem offensive at all because the perspective changed. Now, instead of seeing a racist man, he sees a father calling for his son. More of the picture can be seen now, therefore it’s less likely that anyone’s going to be offended.

Here’s another example. Imagine that I set a donut down on a plate for my son to eat. It has chocolate icing on one side and is plain on the other. I lay it down on the plate with the chocolate side facing down, and when my son gets to the table, he immediately starts complaining about how he likes chocolate donuts and not plain ones. His perception could be that he isn’t going to get what he wants. So I let him complain for a moment until I tell him to flip the donut over and he sees that the very thing he was complaining about was actually the thing he wanted all along. He just couldn’t see the other side. He needed a perspective shift so he could see more of the picture.

Perspective and perception work hand-in-hand. When our perspective doesn’t line up with our perception, one of the two must shift. Tension happens when perception and perspective don’t line up and adjustments aren’t made on either side of the equation to reconcile. 

This is what happens when people say that God isn’t real, yet they see evidence for the supernatural all around them. There’s a tension there that won’t go away until either the person changes their perception to believing that God is real, or they’ll continue to try to find a perspective from which their perception can be justified.

However, perceptions are either true or false; they’re not relative to our particular perspective. True perceptions are based on a wide perspective. They’re based on evidence that objectively points to established facts, which can only be seen from a wide perspective. False perceptions are things we claim to be true based on a limited perspective, but evidence to the contrary is found in a wider perspective.

Consider Donald Trump. I should say up front that I’m not very concerned in this context with how successful Donald Trump’s presidency was, but he was either an overall good president or a bad president. There is no in-between. You can say that he was a little of both, but then there will always be an average. That average is the closest to the truth, and any opinion that sways from that truth is a false perception.

There are a lot of people who believe that Donald Trump was a good president. That perception of him is based on their beliefs, experiences, and personalities. However, if they saw bad things coming out of his presidency, then their perception of him should adjust to fit that evidence. Either that, or they need to continue to adjust their perspective until it matches up with their perception that he was a good president. If they truly still believe that he was a good president despite evidence of the alternative, then it could be that they’re not seeing the whole picture. 

The problem with perspective is, once you see something a certain way, it’s very difficult to unsee it from that perspective.

But too often in our lives, we let narrow perspectives shape our perceptions. In other words, we’re much quicker to adjust our beliefs that are based on objective truth to match our viewpoint than we are to adjust our viewpoint to match what’s true.

If you’re going through difficult circumstances, don’t let it change your beliefs about God. Don’t let your current perspective change your overall perception as long as that perception is based on what’s evidently true.

However, if your perception is that God is a vending machine or a genie in a lamp and your perspective tells you that bad things happen to good people sometimes, then changing your perspective over and over and over won’t change the fact that your perception simply isn’t true. You can know that it’s not true if an abundance of evidence goes against it. If you look around you for long enough then you will see that God clearly isn’t obligated to give us a good life because we are good. Good people get cancer all the time. Good kids die in car accidents all the time. 

So if our perception of God isn’t lining up with the perspective we see, then one of the two needs to adjust. Like I said, you can adjust your perspective constantly throughout your entire life and sooner or later you’re going to bump up against circumstances that go against the idea that God simply treats good for good.

But if you use scripture as the basis for your perception of God, then your basic perception will be that God is good and he is love. If that’s our perception, but our perspective isn’t lining up with that, then we must adjust our perspective.

It could be that God is good, we’re just not seeing the whole picture.

I think about the story of a man who had a horse that ran away. His neighbor came to him and said, “What bad luck.” The man said, “Perhaps.” 

Then, a few days later, the horse returned to the man with three other horses. The neighbor said, “What good luck.” The man said, “Perhaps.” 

The next day, the man’s son went to try to ride one of the new horses but fell off and broke his leg. The neighbor again returned and said, “What bad luck.” The man again said, “Perhaps.” 

A couple of weeks later, his son had to cancel a hiking trip because of his broken leg. On the mountain he was supposed to be hiking on, there was an avalanche at the same time he was supposed to be there. Had he been there, he would have almost certainly died. The neighbor returned and said, “What good luck.” The man once again said, “Perhaps.”

Do you see how perspective can change everything?

Here’s the bottom line: 

When you’re going through times that make you feel as though God isn’t there or isn’t good, start by zooming out to a wider perspective. We have to take our minds to a place that’s not so narrow in its focus. Once we see the bigger picture, then we’re able to make a better judgment about what’s really going on and what’s good or bad.

Posted by Mike P. Taylor

Mike Taylor is a proud husband, father of 4, and author from Nashville, TN who communicates God's love in a way that makes sense.