Why We Blow Things Out of Proportion




There’s a lot of blowing things out of proportion that goes on around us. And in us. We exaggerate things to make a point. We add a sarcastic tone and rationalize we can say just about anything we want. But the problem is…people are listening. We have influence. We need to be responsible, rational, respectful, and humble people. (And we can still be goofy and have fun!)

Some of the things we say and post might seem witty–and even accurate for our feelings in the moment–but that doesn’t mean we should say it, such as, “I’m not mean. I’m brutally honest. It’s not my fault truth hurts. Here’s a band aid.”

Take some responsibility, and not just for yourself. Take responsibility for your thoughts, words, and actions, and consider what impact they’ll have on others, as well as the impact they’ll have on your future self.

When we claim “always,” “never,” or “all,” we box ourselves and others in and out. We draw lines in the sand, and we all know how sand shifts. The more we learn, the less (or more) adamant we might get. The more mature we are, let’s hope we get wiser, and more discerning.

We blow things out of proportion, usually as a result of averages. It’s easier to generalize when we don’t have enough information to and experiences to average an isolated situation across many contexts in order to establish a more accurate perspective. Sometimes all we have is an isolated situation, and it’s a powerful one, and the generalization we make is accurate. But we can at least take the time to discern, then be willing to admit we were wrong when we learn more later.

If you blow things out of proportion in the little, everyday things, even if you convince yourself you’re only joking most of the time, you’re more than likely going to blow the big things out of proportion. At least, that’s the generalization I’m making, looking across a few years of experiences. Maybe you’ll disagree.

After all, we don’t have to always agree. And we don’t have to never agree, either.

Problems with Media

351473-mediaTV-1332052664-192-640x480This is not a post to slam media coverage. From different conversations with people, I think most see the shortcomings of media coverage. Media will cover what people will watch. Even if you don’t personally watch the gloom and doom stories, someone does. Plenty of someones must create the demand. Otherwise, media outlets wouldn’t highlight them. We all also know media is slanted. Honestly, I don’t know how it can’t be. There is no way we can completely portray reality without running it through a filter. The camera lens gives limited perspective. The captions give limited perspective. The news reporter gives limited perspective. Add the filters of the producers, time allotments, editing, and other factors, and it becomes clear why reality gets skewed. Of course, some media outlets seem to represent reality a bit better than others, or at least, we want to believe they do. Perhaps we’ve just chosen the perspective that most matches our own perspective. Perhaps we’ve just become accustomed to specific perspectives, so we’re more accepting and less shocked or disgruntled.

We complain about the filters the skew what the media presents, but we can’t do a lot about that…unless you decide to go on a personal mission to rework the entire media empire. (And spewing your opinions on Facebook doesn’t qualify.) But there’s something we can all do:

Pay attention to your own filters.

We need to filter what we’re taking in instead of just complaining about what others offer us. I was reminded of the importance of filters when in Israel. Family and friends of our group were watching news reports for any updates on happenings in Israel. With the violent fighting throughout the summer, many were concerned for our safety. I understood their concern, but when you travel much and see the chasm between what fits in the small frame of a television and what is happening around you, the concern lessens. Incidents were usually isolated enough that we weren’t aware of anything going on; in fact, most people in Israel probably weren’t. However, people watching the news back home might see an extended report of an isolated event. Which is exactly what happened.

Several women got texts asking how we were and if we were close to the fighting. Fighting? What fighting? Everything around us seemed calm. We heard and saw no commotion. We didn’t hear any more sirens than we’d expect on a normal day in any city–abroad or in the U.S. Several of us looked online to watch the news report to see what others were seeing. The video lasted several minutes. The first 20-30 seconds included the actual scuffle, which involved a few people yelling and pushing each other. No guns, no harmful violence. Yes, it could have escalated to that level, but it didn’t. The rest of the segment included two videos of more violent footage involving many more people. At the bottom of the screen, we noticed small words–“file footage”–with one date that was the height of the summer conflict and one that was an earlier date that originally escalated the conflict. File footage means just what it sounds: video footage (or photographs or an interview, whatever the format) that is pulled from a file. It is related to the current footage, but it’s not current.

Why would a media outlet include something that ignites emotion, conflict, and controversy? That’s not my focus of this post. Instead, let’s ask,

How carefully do I filter what I’m watching and listening?

What assumptions do I bring with me?

What snap judgments do I make?

What do I do, either with my internal reaction or as I share with others, to ignite emotion, conflict, and controversy?

Why should I blame others when I’m not willing to take responsibility for my own response?

Maybe you refuse to watch the news because you’re trying to avoid dealing with these kinds of issues, you’re not off the hook. You need to filter any information coming in. You have assumptions that you need to be aware of and make snap judgments at times. You let yourself respond in ways that aren’t truth-seeking, and you spread that to others. You share inflammatory things on social media, spew around your table, or pass along false or partial information. We all do from time to time, more than we want to admit.

It’s our responsibility, each one of us, to seek truth. Use God’s truth as your filter. Respond with truth. You can’t control all media, but you can be an example in your sphere of influence.


With the Expert’s Trust

We went on a tour of the school where we served in Israel. Near the end of the tour, we walked down a basement hallway with a mural that was barely started. Most the length of the wall was filled with black lines, marking our paint areas. Later, we met the artist…and he was a bonafide artist. We thought he was simply a man who was capable of drawing good murals for kids. The last day we served, we found out he was a professional artist. We visited a website of his creations and were in awe…

…especially when we realized he trusted us enough to paint his creations.

©2014 PurePurpose.org

Sure, we were basically doing paint-by-numbers without the numbers. When we finished one job, he would grab a cup from his cart, pour in some base paint, then add a little of this color and a little of that to create just the shade he wanted. He’d point and say, “Here. Here. And here.” in his thick Russian accent to instruct us exactly where to paint, then walk away to help someone else. Every now and then, we’d catch him looking over our shoulders. We’d ask, “Okay?” He’d nod and smile and say, “Yes. Yes. Okay. Okay.” I wondered if he really meant it at times. He seemed to chuckle a little as he reassured us. But his affirmation encouraged us to continue to do our best. We were creating murals for the children and school staff, but we wanted to please the artist, too. It was his vision, and we wanted to bring it to life.

Being trusted by an expert is flattering, but it also comes with responsibility.

It reminds me of my relationship with God. I am flabbergasted by His love, mercy, and generosity. I find the responsibility of faith daunting and honoring. I get to participate in God’s plan. He creates the guidelines. He mixes the colors and gives me instructions, then He lets me respond. He’s never too far away. Sometimes I feel His closeness; sometimes I don’t, but I know He is always invested in my life. He created it. He corrects and encourages me. I may fill in just a little space of color, but there are people all around me who are adding their color. I may not be able to conceptualize the big picture, but I’m glad God can.

And I’m glad He invites me to be a part of His world, His creation, His plan.

When You Could Do More

“But I could do so much more.”

11.6.14 Bridges for Peace at WIZO (78)
©2014 PurePurpose.org

As we sat in my room the first night we served in Israel, we reflected on the day. After training, we slowly eased into serving and primarily painted murals on preschool walls. It was the simple kind of painting…sort of like paint by numbers. The artist mixed the colors and told us where to paint.

We were minions.

But not really.

Once someone make the comment, “But I could do so much more,” there was a brief pause before the discussion of other perspectives began. We talked about what joy the colorful walls would bring to the teachers and young children for years to come. We talked about how closely we were able to serve among the school staff and children, which meant they would see our sacrifice. They would notice our attitudes and joy as we served. Maybe we weren’t minions after all. When we thought about the responsibility of serving in God’s name, we felt honored and humbled.

We often think we can do “more,” but what if the “more” is in the service we’re facing right now? How often do we miss out on the impact we can have with what is right in front of us because we think of other opportunities?

We want to be important, but God wants us to be willing. What seems important to us doesn’t usually match God’s criteria for importance. We do what is most important when we focus on knowing and serving God.

Maybe you think you could do more, but are you pouring your everything into what is right in front of you? It’s what God is giving you today. When you serve Him well, your efforts are multiplied through Him. You may never know the ripples effects of your sacrifice, but you can be certain God will use your humble willingness beyond your imagination and beyond your understanding.

Serve Him well. Give Him your all. It’s the most you can do.

With Blessings Come Responsibility

What responsibilities do you find in these verses?

Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not to please ourselves. Each one of us must please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even the Messiah did not please Himself. On the contrary, as it is written, The insults of those who insult You have fallen on Me. For whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that we may have hope through endurance and through the encouragement from the Scriptures. Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement allow you to live in harmony with one another, according to the command of Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with a united mind and voice. (Romans 15:1-6)

responsibility5As I sat in a training in preparation to begin serving in Israel with Bridges for Peace, I heard a quick reference to Romans 15, along with the challenge, “With blessings come responsibility.” Later that day, I read through Romans 15. Just the first half dozen verses are full of blessings and the responsibilities that come along with them.

  • Are you blessed with strength? Bear the weaknesses of others.
  • And do it for them, not yourself.
  • Oh, and just in case you’re wondering, it’s really not about you at all. Follow Jesus, who didn’t do things for Himself but always for others.
  • Was something written in the past for you? (God’s Word, perhaps?) Use it as your instruction. It’s the way you’ll have hope.
  • Speaking of Scripture, because you have access to God’s Word, you have access to the endurance and encouragement you need. It’s not optional. It’s assured.
  • And that endurance and encouragement? Yes, that comes with responsibility, too. Use it to live in harmony with others.
  • Since you’ll be living in harmony with others, you will also be fulfilling your responsibility to glorify God with a united mind and voice.

No pressure.

I may have taken a few liberties, and you can explore the rest of the chapter if you want, but try not to make it too complicated. As daunting as it might seem. Stop rationalizing. Perhaps you don’t feel strong all the time. But you don’t have to feel strong to be strong. God is the source of strength. You’re never strong on your own and always strong with Him. Quit defining it your own way at your own convenience. You might not feel hopeful. You might not feel capable of endurance or encouragement. And when you claim you don’t have those things because of your feelings, you can pull back from all the responsibilities attached. After all, if you don’t have those things, how can you follow through with what is required?

Because of God…

Because of God, you have the things you don’t even realize you have.

Because of God, you can do the things you don’t think you can do.

Because of God, the instructions are there. You just have to listen and follow.

Because of God, the pressure is off you. He’s first, not you.

Because of God, the pressure is on you. You have to put Him first and choose humility.

You might see areas of your life you don’t view as blessed. Don’t be deceived. Being blessed doesn’t mean everything is working out the way you expect or want. If you’re reading this, you are literate. You are blessed. You have access to technology. You are blessed. You likely have a place to sleep and something to eat. Blessed. Blessed.

Most of all, you have access to God. I don’t know if you are engaging with Him or not, but you have access to Him. Definitely blessed.

Are you responding responsibly?

Fitting All the Pieces Together

There are a lot of moving parts in daily life. Lots of decisions to make. Lots of problems to solve. Lots of questions to answer. Lots of responsibilities to coordinate. Feeling overwhelmed as the thought of it all?

If you try to take control of everything, you will…feel overwhelmed.


If you settle into God’s presence and respond as He guides, you will have a peace and comfort that calms and reassures you.

piecesI know, I know. Sounds simple and too good to be true, but let me assure you choosing God isn’t easy. He doesn’t take away all the decisions, problems, questions, and responsibilities. He doesn’t eliminate the chaos of moving parts. Everything doesn’t fall into place with ease. Having peace and comfort that calms and reassures you doesn’t mean your life is perfect, as you want it. Relying on Him and having His peace and comfort is certainly overwhelming, in a good way, at times, but other times, He simply gives you the perseverance you need to move forward and slog through the messiness of life. He takes the edge off.

What’s right in front of you? Face it with God.

When you make a list of all the moving parts, you’ll likely drown in the details…and perhaps ask God why He’s allowing so much. But He never intended for you to take it all on by yourself. He never intended for you to control life on your own. And He never intended you to look at all the possibilities and get tied up in knots with anxiety.

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)

There are, indeed, many moving parts in life, but you’re not the mechanic or the engineer. Your biggest responsibility is to trust and follow God, not because of what you get out of the choice. Your choice recognizes God’s authority. He already has it, and you’re not going to change that. Choose to honor Him, and He will change you.

The Want-To and The Have-To

WantToHaveTo“I don’t want to, but…”

Surely you’ve finished this statement. Perhaps it’s an obligation, responsibility, or relationship you can’t ignore. You’d rather do something else, but you know there’s a cost in not going through with it. You’re not willing to pay the price. So, you choose to do it.

So…it’s not really a have-to after all. It’s a want-to. Sure, it might not be at the top on your list of things to do, but aren’t you putting it on the top of your list by doing it?

Maybe you think I’m making a distinction that doesn’t need to be made. Isn’t it just the words we choose to use? Well, perhaps, but with words come weight of significance. We assign worth with our words. If we’re consistently using the have-to words, we tend to focus more on a lack of choice or control, and it’s time to admit responsibility. We’re adults. We make choices. And it’s amazing how a choice of words can change our perspectives.

Stating the want-to makes me more intentional about the decisions I’m making and the intentionality of weighing the pros and cons of the decision. I might really want to be spend a relaxing evening in my pajamas at home, but I also know that a friend would appreciate my appearance at a celebration on her behalf. I might want to avoid conflict in a gathering of people that often results in tension, at the very least, yet I know how important it is to continue to strengthen the relationships even through the struggles.

Consider what you feel you have to do.

Work? Well, you would certainly put yourself in a predicament if you didn’t work and get a paycheck, but people certainly do it. You must not want to live the lifestyle it would require.
Marriage? Sure, you might get rid of a few problems if you walk out of your marriage, but all your problems won’t go away. You’ll exchange one set of challenges for another.
Serve? Yes, even with serving, we can feel the have-to. After all, if we don’t, who will? And it’s not that we really don’t want to do it. Perhaps it’s just the timing or someone’s assumption we’ll get it done.

Whatever it is, we feel it’s more of a have-to than a want-to. But you don’t have to do it. If you do it, you choose to do it.

We’re rarely in a situation in which we’re forced to do something. We have a lot of choices. In fact, we’re so inundated with choices, we can get overwhelmed with them, want more, or take them for granted. Practice recognizing and making good choices, including acknowledging you have a choice between have-to and want-to.

You don’t have to, but I hope you want to.