When I was in high school, my group of friends was more guys than girls. We got along great and never, to my knowledge, liked each other in any way other than friends. It freed us to just have fun and spared us from any drama that could occur when emotions get tangled. So it was quite surprising when, home for summer break after my first year away at college, one of those guy friends told me something shocking after lunch. He knew that I was “setting my hat for him” (an archaic phrase if there ever was one). This according to his mother. What? Yes, she had seen the signs (huh?) and he was just going to get it out in the open. The poor guy. The look on my face must have confirmed that I had no intention whatsoever of …wearing his hat?…being sweet on him…who knows. Guess who I haven’t talked to since?
Clearly, just because we perceive something, doesn’t mean it’s true. Countless times I’ve heard someone proclaim something as fact when indeed that is not the case at all. Years ago my principal informed me that a student was quite certain I didn’t like him. Seems that every time he was in my room, I was quiet and a little tired. When I showed surprise, the principal uttered those words, ” well, you know, perception is reality.” Ugh! No! It’s not! The class time I had this student was right after lunch. I was pregnant and struggled to stay wakeful at that hour. My lethargy had everything to do with my body and nothing to do with anyone else.
It’s human nature to draw conclusions when we wonder about something but taking it one step further and taking your guess as gospel is dangerous. It’s very common to make private decisions about someone or some situation based on our flawed guesses. How many relationships have been damaged or dinged because of it? If we perceive something, we better ask for facts, and listen with an open heart to what is true. Unfortunately, sometimes this happens late, and the “truth” version is so ingrained, minds can’t be changed. I’m sure I must be guilty of this myself.
Maybe you remember reading To Kill a Mockingbird in high school. So much of the childhood stories center around Boo Radley, the neighbor who the neighborhood kids are convinced is a creeper. They have tons of “evidence” and are convinced that nothing else could be true. The last scene of Scout taking Boo’s arm and walking him home is so poignant. She allows him to lead so that anyone who watches (and you can bet they were) would see the dignified gentlemen he was. She’s learned he’s a recluse, but no monster. That is fact…and it took an 8 year old to show the town.
I think the reason we assume, presume and believe our perceptions is because it’s easier. It takes courage to ask questions or believe something that might belie what our eyes tell us. But there’s so much more to every story and we owe it to our friends and neighbors to find out what reality really is.