How to Overcome Perceptions

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image credit: CreationSwap user Rich Aguilar

Just the other day, I had someone tell me that all of my posts on Facebook are about food and parenting. “You must really love your food…and your son!”

Well, she’s right about me loving my food…and my son.

But she’s wrong about all of my posts being about those two topics. And I could’ve corrected her, but thank you very much Dale Carnegie, I just smiled and continued the conversation. Correcting her would’ve done no good. Why?

Perception is everything.

People can perceive you to be all sorts of things that you’re not. I’ve been perceived

  • Naive
  • Un-thoughtful
  • Forgetful
  • Unwise
  • Small-minded
  • Forgetful
  • Lazy
  • Unmotivated
  • Wasteful
  • Greedy
  • Self-serving

And in each of those cases, I could verbally tell you why I’m not that. Explain to you how I’m not lazy. Map out for you how I’m really not small-minded. Draw a diagram on the back of a napkin to show you how I’m not self-serving.

And in each of those cases, I would watch you walk away shaking your head in disagreement, firmly planted and confirmed in your ideas about me.

Perceptions aren’t often logical. They’re feelings-based. And feelings-based ideas aren’t overcome by logic and reason. They’re overcome by another feeling.

Instead of telling you how I’m not lazy, I need to show you that I hustle every day.

Instead of telling you how I’m not forgetful, I need to remember your name.

Instead of telling you how I’m not greedy, I need to demonstrate for you generosity.

Instead of telling you that I’m not self-serving, I need to show you what it looks like to serve others.

Perceptions of the Church

I know that, because of what we’ve stood against and how we’ve lived in this world, others have certain perceptions of the Church. Certain perceptions that aren’t necessarily true. Perceptions that, because of our history, people have come to believe. They perceive that we’re

  • Naive
  • Small-minded
  • Bigots
  • Deceived
  • Foolish
  • Stubborn
  • Boring
  • Lazy
  • Uncaring
  • Weak

I’m ashamed of the perceptions that the Church has gained. And I could lay out for you how our church is different. I could logically walk you through what we do differently. But most of the time, that’s not going to work. Perceptions aren’t logical. They’re rooted in feelings and emotions.

So I’m just going to show you. I’m going to let you see the Church in action through me. I’m going to serve and love and give and go and never expect anything in return. I’m going to be the Church and live the Church. Instead of just talking, I’m going to serve. Instead of just debating, I’m going to love. Instead of arguing, I’m going to give.

That’s what the Church does.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. – Jesus, from John 13:34-35

*Image credit: CreationSwap user Rich Aguilar 




Christ follower, husband, father, writer, small groups pastor at Saddleback Community Church. Communications director for the Small Group Network.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Ja Cook

    This is awesome, Ben! What we do…what we demonstrate…truly can truly have exceedingly more impact than what we say. This is something we could all use a reminder on. Thanks!

    • Ben Reed

      Agreed completely, Ja. Thankful that churches all across the world are embracing that.

  • Brandon

    Great message!`

    • Ben Reed

      Thanks Brandon!

  • Jason Vana

    It all goes back to the old saying: actions speak louder than words. 
    We can tell people all we want that we love them, but if they don’t see the action, it means nothing. Great post Ben!

    • Ben Reed

      Or, as I’ve heard so many times, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” 

      Sounds like you guys are living this stuff out, too, at your church. Am I right?

  • Leslie Oden

    That is definitely my experience with perception, it is emotional, not rational.  I recently made a comment on facebook about cleaning up all the political rhetoric from my newsfeed.  That particular day, dozens of people had posted campaign videos, news clips, anti-administration stuff, etc., and I was just tired of having it clutter my news feed. A friend on facebook assumed I was talking specifically about her husband (who frequently posts conservative political diatribes) and un-friended me.  Nothing I could say in response could convince her I wasn’t targeting her husband with my comment.  In retrospect, I could have loved with my actions (rather than trying to convince with my words) by just hiding the ranters from my feed and saying nothing about it.  You live. You learn.  Great post, great lesson!

    • Ben Reed

      Talking politics rarely falls into rational thinking…it typically slides into heated debates. That’s why I stay away from them online.

  • Paul Loeffler

    I couldn’t agree with you more.  Unfortunately, I agree with you – in part – because I’ve been the perceiver.  I have found myself being the one who struggles to change that initial perception, even when I can myself logically show that I was wrong.  It is based on emotions, and emotions are powerful things.  For my part, I endeavor to consciously remind myself of these things, and take a look at my perceptions about people, situations, groups, etc. regularly to make sure they’re accurate.  

    Your comments about how to respond are also excellent.  Sometimes you actually change people’s perceptions simply by not commenting.  Something about a wise man keeps his mouth shut…

  • Arnyslight

    Faith without works is dead…

    I had a simi-breakdown similar to yours on my blog Wed.

    I was called out on it…

    How are you going to show us?…

    • Ben Reed

      How did you respond, Arny?

  • Bhuebert

    This is brilliant. 

    I think the challenge for me is to be open to new perceptions myself. I put things in boxes, slap labels on them, and sell them far too quickly. 

    Words can be part of altering perception if the perception is about how I use words. If its how I live, though? Couldn’t agree more. Thanks for this. 

  • Carol H. Rives

    Very thought-provoking post!  These are words that so many people should think about it, and it’s good to be reminded, myself.  You know what happens when we assume, but so many of us do this at sometime or another.  

    If we all stopped and asked ourselves whether we are basing our feelings on emotion or facts, most likely we’d stop and rethink, but somehow those emotions have a bit more leverage, at times.

    Thanks for putting this post out there…. it will certainly make me stop and think, especially with the Holiday Season upon us…. who knows what folks are going through, and how it may be magnified during the Season?

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  • Robbie Mansur

    Good stuff. Really made me think about how I perceive things. Feeling or logic. 

    What are your thoughts on how Feelings and logic apply to men and women? 

    • Ben Reed

      You mean the way that men and women make decisions, and whether those are more feelings or logic based in relation to gender?

      I’ve got thoughts, but I don’t think they’re grounded in any hard science.

      What about you?