“to recognize, discern, envision, or understand” (Webster’s Dictionary)
This word and it’s meaning continues to pop up in my life Whac-A-Mole style.
NPR today, Dianne Rhem was discussing Toni Morrison’s first book, “The Bluest Eye.” As I was running errands, I listened to her panel of authors raise the question, “How do we see the world and how does the world see us?”
In Bible study, we are looking at Shelia Walsh’s The Storm Inside. The last two weeks, we have looked more deeply at the Samaritan woman who meets Jesus at the well (John 4:4-46). This week we are discussing the nameless woman who dared to reach out and touch the hem of Christ’s robe and was, in turn healed from an issue of bleeding (Mark 5:25-34). Both women lived their lives as complete outcasts, isolated from everyone they encountered and treated as unworthy. They were dependent on how the world perceived them and therefore, how they perceived themselves.
Our book club has chosen, as our September read, a poignant little book, Wonder by R.J. Palacio. While this is a book meant for young readers, it is chocked full of little pearls of wisdom for living a better life. In short, the book is about a little boy, born with a severe facial deformity. The book covers a year of this child’s first school experience as a fifth grader and all that comes with learning to deal with how he is perceived by others and how he copes with his own perception of himself.
I love this quote from Wonder. Palacio actually quotes Christopher Nolan in Under the Eye of the Clock. He writes, “It was moments such as these that Joseph recognized the face of God in human form. It glimmered in their kindness to him, it glowed in their keenness, it hinted in their caring, indeed it caressed in their gaze.” Oh how amazing it would be to be seen by others in this way. What an incredible thing “to be recognized by such a simple thing as kindness.”
Eating lunch with friends several weeks ago our conversation trailed off on a tangent, as often happens in conversations of women, and for whatever reason, the subject turned to how we thought we were perceived by others.
The four of us all wondered the same question. Do people see me differently than I see myself? Do I present myself differently in certain situations than I do in others? Am I looked at as quiet or reserved, maybe even snobbish? Do others see me as outgoing and friendly, or maybe loud and obnoxious? Do I seem wise and capable or flighty and undependable? The list of characteristics covers a multitude of flaws and attributes. We all four came to the same conclusion. We present ourselves in a different manner than who we feel we might really be, even though that is not our intention.
Lately, since all my paths seem to be colliding over this subject of perception. I decided if put some of my thoughts in writing about this concurring subject of “am I the person people perceive me to be” I might be able to make some meaning to it all.
I think the real question I am asking myself is; am I loved, am I worthy, am I deserving, am I good enough? Do other’s perceive me in this way? Do I perceive myself in this way?
One last little incident that happened goes hand in hand with this perception issue that keeps raising it’s questioning little Whac-A-Mole head.
Several days prior to the lunch with my friends, I was googling information about an author. I quickly shifted gears, as I often do when surfing, and found myself googling my own name. Wondering if I might possibly have something in common with someone whose name is the same as mine. I typed in Janet Boswell.
I found my name is quite common. I scrolled through a long list of females with my name. Their information and backgrounds were varied. Their occupations covered a wide spectrum. There was a Janet Boswell who was a mail room production processor, another had her career at Home Depot, one was a Vice-president of a corporation. I clicked on Google images and before me was a sea of faces all owning my name. There were pictures of women older and younger than me. Women from all ethnicities, and all walks of life. Did I really I think I might find something in common with someone just because we shared a name?
My searched continued. Since Boswell was not my maiden name I switched my search to Janet Merrill. There are fewer Merrill's than Boswell's but the differences were still there. Doctors, attorneys, an author, an artist, one worked at a Goodwill store, one at Pink Poppy Studios and one looked like she may well have been a pole dancer. No my very own name held no more special bond with any other. The only similar thing I found was one Janet Merrill had her Face Book cover photo standing in front of the Parthenon in Athens, well what a coincidence. I have also had my picture taken in front of the Parthenon...and so have millions of other people. Perception #1: One cannot be perceived by their name.
Have you ever been introduced to someone and their first response is, "You remind me so much of someone I know?" I think I get this response from about half of the people I meet. I have decided I must have one of those very common faces that reminds people of their best friend's cousin's aunt.
When told that I remind someone of a particular person, I'm always so curious if this is a good or bad thing? I want to say, introduce me to this person who I remind you of, let me see myself through your eyes. I'm curious how others perceive me. Why is this? Do other people ruminate over this same thought?
I feel the older I get I really don't care much what others think of me, maybe I feel like at 60 years old, I am pretty much who I am, so take me or leave me. Yet, this curiosity prevails. Perception #2: Whether it's my appearance or mannerisms, I must not be exotic, nor can I be perceived by my appearance.
I believe my heart's desire is to be perceived by the way I try to live my life. It would be my desire for others to find in me, kindness, thoughtfulness, sincerity, and honesty. My real fear is, I fall short of my goal. Perception #3: The good news, I believe, is that my faith allows God to perceive me as his child, flawless and perfect through Christ. How thankful I am for God's grace!
So while I may always be curious to see myself outside my own body, the truth is, I may never be able to live up to my own expectations.
So the next time I am introduced to someone new and I hear the words, "You remind me so much of ____ ____. All I can really do is smile and say, “I hope that may be a good thing." Realizing inwardly, I'm thankful God is not through with me yet.
For what it's worth,
Perception #4: “Now here is my secret. It is very simple. It is only with one's heart that one can see clearly. What is essential is invisible to the eye." Antoine de Saint-Exupery. The Little Prince
Galatians 5:22-23 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."