A Selfish Perspective

fc707aa0f4ea2a8696bb4e657ac392c2Gas prices started falling, and I was happy about it. So were most people around me. We’d have to spend less to travel and go about our daily business. We’d all have more expendable income, whether for ourselves or the community. The lower gas prices would have ripple effects that could only be good.

Or not.

I then saw a couple of my friends from the coastline who posted about the ill effects of those gas prices. Their friends and families were losing their jobs. There were ripple effects throughout the community, but they weren’t good.

My perspective changed. I could pay an extra couple dimes per gallon in order to help another. I could quit assuming my good deal was a good deal for everyone.

I hope not to purposefully take a selfish perspective. Sometimes, I simply need someone to share another perspective to pull back the curtain on my selfishness.

We all do.

Let’s consider others’ perspectives. We may not agree with everyone, but we can learn, grow, and replace our self-centeredness with humility and compassion.

Barbed-Wire Christians

12i-Barbed wireAre you a barbed-wire wrapped Christian? Even if it’s not you, I’m sure you know “that one person” who fits the description. Unless you completely agree with absolutely everything the person has to say (which I doubt is even possible), you watch them poke and wound others. Fighting takes precedent over kindness, arguing over listening, being right over engaging in a relationship to reach out to others. They are “come,” not “go” people, who focus on getting everyone to agree to and adopt their own perspectives instead of engaging people where they are and doing the messy life with them while living truth out loud.

How can you avoid being a barbed-wire Christian?

Laugh at yourself more than others. Live with high hopes and standards of civility. Instead of chronically fighting back, fight how and when God intends. Pursue and follow Jesus well, because when you do, you won’t be retaliatory. Instead, everything you do and who you are becoming will be motivated and prompted by God alone.

The Lesser of Two Evils

batmanningEspecially during elections, I often hear about choosing the lesser of two evils. However, when focusing on comparing what we consider to be two evils, we become vulnerable, negative, and defensive. We stay in the negative and choose what seems to be least negative to us. In the process, we position ourselves as somewhat helpless, a victim of being presented with poor options.

But we’re not victims. We’re not helpless. And we don’t have to be negative. Yes, there are negative aspects to our choices. There always are. Our choices are rarely perfect (and if we think they are, we’re probably looking at them unrealistically).

We can flip our choice between two evils to a comparison to find the best among two imperfect options. It’s semantics and perspective over the same choice, but it can significantly change out attitude. Sometimes the way we make our choice becomes more impactful to ourselves and others than the choice in and of itself.

 

Your View of Others Matters

imagesWhat you see in others is the foundation of what you get from them.

I’m not suggesting we are able to will what happens, that our perspective becomes reality. However, our view of others matters. Have you ever noticed that someone else “proves” themselves over and over again, whether it’s positive or negative? You can’t understand how he or she can be so consistent. In some cases, it’s frustrating, because over and over, someone disappoints you. You feel attacked or taken for granted again and again. Perhaps it’s because of his or her consistency. But perhaps you are also noticing what you most expect to see.

When I was expecting our first child, my husband often commented on how many expecting moms he seemed to see all of the sudden. We notice what we expect, both good and bad. Seeing consistencies can help us make sense of things, but in some cases, it can overshadow evidence to the contrary. If we expect to only see confrontation, obstinacy, or passive-aggressiveness, we might overlook glimpses of attempts to respond differently. If we expect to see sacrifice, generosity, and patience, we might overlook irritability, avoidance, or manipulation.

People’s behaviors certainly impact the foundation of our relationship with them, but our perspective also contributes to that foundation. What assumptions are you making about people–both groups and individuals? How does that affect the way you filter the news, conversations, social media feeds, and your thoughts?

Your view of others matters.

The Blessings You Don’t See

There is so much around us that we take for granted, neglecting to notice the blessings we have every day. We seem to notice so many blessings when something fails; instead of a blessing, we see an inconvenience. We often want God to move in our ways instead of letting us look through His perspective. We see what is broken that we want Him to fix. We see shortcomings that we want Him to stretch and increase. We see an inconvenience that we want Him to take away instead of realizing the blessing in the delay and provision through it.

We need to focus not as much on asking God to bless us but to open our eyes to see the blessings He has given us.

We’re surrounded. Yes, there are the big things like a job, family, and a place to live. But there are so many smaller things, that when we begin to notice them, they create huge piles of blessings that help us slow down and notice more and more.

Consider the ease by which you can access places, information, basic (and not so basic) needs and wants.

Consider the encouragement you can find in the people around you, including the choices you have for connections and inspiration online.

Consider colors, textures, and scents that spur good memories or give you a moment of inspiration.

Even when we pray for the rain to stop when it dampens and pools around us, we can appreciate the nourishment and wonder of it.

Even when we pray for a loved one to get better, we can be thankful for the care he has access to, as well as the people who surround him, or the impact he has had on others’ lives.

Even when something breaks at what seems to be the most inconvenient time, we can recognize how the long list of other things that we have seem to be holding together, in many cases, longer than expected.

Even when our plans get cancelled, we can appreciate the opportunity for downtime or for reaching out to someone else in need.

Even when life doesn’t go the way we planned, we can trust God is well aware and is working even if we can’t see or understand the details.

We can trust Him as more than just the “go to guy” when we’re in need. We can let Him define our needs. We can let Him work outside the box of what we want or think He can do. We can let Him be God, and let Him define blessings, and commit to giving in our perspective for His.

(Almost) Out of Control

The only thing you can truly control is your attitude.

We like to think we’re in control in some ways. We like results. We like influence. We want to be able to manage well. We want to stick with a schedule or routine…or not. We want a certain standard…or not. We want someone to respond to us in a certain way. We think we know the best way to comfort or motivate someone. We just want to fix something in order to help someone we love.

It’s good to be responsible. But we can’t do so with the illusion that we are in control. Our responsibility comes out of obedience, not out of authority.

But you can control your attitude and your perspective. You can think you’re bigger, wiser, and more powerful than you are and, even though you might feel and appear to have control at times, it’s a mirage of pride. (We mask pride as responsibility, but when we’re not open to look at the world and ourselves through the lens of truth, it is still selfishness not matter how we disguise or rationalize it.) Or you can humbly seek truth, direction, provision, wisdom, and power from a source that actually has authority.

I often chuckle as I claim to be a recovering control freak, but in reality, it’s not all that funny. I want to believe and trust that my perspective is right (and trustworthy) but the only perspective I can truly trust happens when I set all my preferences aside–whether they seem good or bad to me–and ask God what His perspective is. Then, I follow…as best as I can, even when I don’t understand, even when I don’t see all the pieces, even when something seems counter-intuitive to me. And as I’ve followed Him, I’ve come to realize that He guides out of wisdom and power with authority and perspective that is unparalleled. Yet He is willing to share. He won’t let you down. Ever. Even when things don’t turn out the way you expect or want them to…if you were in control.

Take control by giving it up. After all, it’s really not yours to begin with.

Has Technology Changed Our Perspective of Problems?

Technology solves a lot of problems for us. We have easy access to many things we once would have had to spend a lot of time and effort to research, plan, and network. We get reminders, warnings, and notifications. If we have a problem, there’s likely an app for it. Actually, there’s probably many apps for any one particular issue. We have to identify the problem we have and somewhat know the solution in order to choose the right app among many.

Just because technology helps us solve a “problem,” doesn’t mean it was a problem in the first place.

Need to manage tasks? Ask for directions? Find the answer to a question? Be able to convert a measurement? Connect with an old friend? Technology can help with all those problems, but there are other solutions, too. And to be honest, are those things actual problems? They are definitely something to figure out, but problems? If you were to list all the problems in your life, or around the world, how many of them could you solve with apps on your phone?

Perhaps we’ve broadened our definition of “problem” so widely that we’ve watered it down. Our first world problems, like being delayed in the Starbucks line or not being able to find our favorite shampoo, have warped our perspective. Maybe not having easy, free access to wifi isn’t actually a problem. Maybe being available at all times isn’t actually a problem. Maybe being able to check in with our friends (without them knowing about it) on social media isn’t as essential as we think.

When you think about the apps that make your life easier, consider how dependent you are on them. What problems are you certain they solve. Would you be okay if you didn’t have an app for the particular problem? Could you solve it another way? Or live with it as a minimal issue?

The people who make apps want you to believe the apps solve problems for you. In order to sell the apps (or the advertising or other support for the apps), people have to create the demand. It’s a Marketing 101 concept. What do you do if there’s not a problem to solve? Create the solution to the problem you can get others to imagine. Present the problem, then offer the solution.

Be more discerning than that. Don’t buy into the idea that technology solves a problem, or that you actually have a problem to solve. Think about it.

That doesn’t mean you set all technology aside either. But know the difference between a real problem and a “first world problem.”

Keep your perspective in good shape, so you’re not overwhelmed by the distortions of “problems” in your life.