Published October 31, 2017

Shelia Shares

Perceptions can be flawed. I could look at you and assume something entirely incorrect based simply on your appearance. Fair? No. But it could happen.

There are people who have lots of money and don't look like they have an extra dime. And, there are people who look like a million bucks, but are so deeply in debt that they really don't have an extra dime.

There are homes that look wonderful, but the foundation and building materials are shoddy. It is that hidden part of the building that we don't see. We would perceive that this is a quality house.

The Washington Post published a story in 2007 about how perceptions influence actions. It was about something that took place in a Washington, DC, Metro Station where a man with a violin played six Bach compositions for 45 minutes. Here's how the Post told the story:

"During that time approximately two thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After three minutes, a middle-aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule...

"Forty-five minutes later, the musician had played continuously. Only six people stopped and listened for a short while. About twenty gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32."

When the musician finished, no one noticed. But here's the rest of the story...

"The violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each.

"This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities.

"The questions raised were whether in a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?"*

What conclusions have you come to based on wrong assumptions?

Often on Facebook, people comment that they lost friends and assume someone is mad at them or that they said something wrongly. (There could be any number of reasons why your "friend count" went down. Anyway, who has time to look at their "friend count" every day?)

I heard two people talking in a store. One lady stated that someone had not responded to her text. The assumption by both people was that the person who was sent the text must be mad at them, but they didn't know why. (My assumption would have been that the person was busy or even driving and unwilling to cause an accident by texting someone.)

What I have noticed is that our perceptions are often based on us. We are the important person and if something happens, it is because of us. We are important enough that nothing happens unrelated to us.

I remember being at a convention and later someone told me I had ignored them. I was stunned. I didn't remember seeing them among the hundreds or even thousands of people at the convention. They said I looked right at them and didn't speak to them. It is entirely possible. But, I wasn't avoiding them, as they perceived.

What have you missed today? What have you perceived as not worth your time? Who have you perceived as unworthy of a second look?

Probably more importantly, have you noticed God today? Have you perceived Him at work in your world? Have you taken the time to share Him with someone?

- Shelia

*(The Washington Post won a Pulitzer in the feature writing category for Gene Weingarten's April 2007 story about this experiment. For the complete story, search under Gene Weigarten "Pearls Before Breakfast.")

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