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A Perspective Change

Text by: Christine Pethel

If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear as it is - infinite
-William Blake (English visionary Mystic,
Poet, Painter and Engraver. 1757-1827)
As human beings, our lives are full of perception, of perceiving things. Our perspective is our personal mental view or outlook regarding the situations and experiences that present themselves each day for our interpretation. Physical perspective depends on location; we see different perspectives if we stand in different places, and when we stand in a higher place, we usually have a broader, more complete perspective. Mental perspective works in a similar way. We observe life, generally, from one perspective—our own; but just as physical perspective can change, so can our mental outlook. From simple situations (choosing what shirt to wear) to more complex situations (whether we should resign from our current employment), our future is conditioned by what type of perspective we personally choose to have every day of our life. In other words, do you have a narrow view, or a higher, more open view? Or, as cliché as it sounds, do you see the glass as half empty, or half full?

There are numerous times in the course of the day when a perspective that we have held to be true is challenged. Our perception of a situation can change in the twinkling of an eye because of new information we've received, or because we have chosen to ask questions and broaden our outlook. This change is also known as a "paradigm shift," as explained by famed author Steven R. Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

It was Sunday morning in New York. I was on a subway alone. It was a rather quiet morning. The subway was no more than perhaps 1/3 filled; very unlike I'm sure, the raucous night before. People were just quietly sitting there. Some were reading their newspapers. It was kind of a pleasant quiet morning.

All of a sudden a man and his children, a large group of children got onto the subway and they were so loud and so noisy, so raucous, that instantly the whole climate had changed. The man sat right next to me and did nothing about this whole situation. Everybody was yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people's papers. It was very disturbing.

So I turned to him after a few minutes and said, "Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn't control them a little more."

He was looking down and kind of lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation and said, "I guess I should. We just came from the hospital. Their mother just died about an hour ago. I guess I don't know what to think and I guess they don't know how to handle it either."

Now do you see the situation differently? I did . . . instantly, as you do now. Notice how free flowing and spontaneous your attitudes of helpfulness and sympathy are. I said, "What can I do to help?"

Look how your attitude and your behavior are a function of your paradigm, of how you see the situation. It isn't what happens to us that affects our behavior. It's our interpretation of what happens to us and if we can learn to get a better paradigm, get at a different level of thinking, we are on the road to significant improvement.
© Blake Werner

Think of a time when your perspective was changed. What made it shift? Now look at how you see the world on a daily basis. Is your outlook always positive? Or is it somewhat pessimistic? Ask yourself the question—is my paradigm something I can be proud of? And if I could change it, how would I?

Now is the time. Choose to look at life differently. Find different views of a situation, step into someone else's shoes, or find out more information before judging. If there are two ways to see the situation, choose the positive.

 

I complained because my husband worked until very late at night and got up very early in the morning to leave. We barely saw him in our home except for a few moments at a time.

He was then called to duty halfway across the world for 15 months, to live and work amongst gunfire and unrest, and we rarely had more than a few minutes with him on a webcam or over the phone.

Oh, how I wished for him to be near us again, if only for a few moments.

© Blake Werner

 

I judged my friends who were parents for being so busy and never having enough time for themselves. I judged their messy houses and mismatched glassware and not spending enough time cleaning.

Until I had children of my own . . . I found myself with not enough time in the day, not enough time for the house, and no time to sort through my glassware.

I can now see how these parents spent their time with their children; I learned it as I too began spending my time at the park, on a jungle gym, and in a rocking chair.

 

My daughter complained that all her friends had 20 pairs of pants, 25 pairs of shoes, and 32 stylish name-brand shirts.

Until she visited another friend who only had 2 pairs of pants, 2 pairs of shoes, and 2 no-name brand shirts.

She soon became very thankful for her 5 pairs of pants, 5 pairs of shoes, and 10 somewhat name-brand shirts.

 

8 a.m. is an ungodly hour to wake up.

Until 5 a.m. becomes your wake up call.

By 8 a.m., I'm getting ready for my lunch break.

 

I feared aging and showing too many wrinkles.

Until I was in a near fatal car crash and burned over three quarters of my body.

Wrinkles and age spots are beautiful to me now.

 

I was constantly annoyed at my mom for always worrying about me, always telling me what to do. She was always asking about me and my day and how school was going. She just wouldn't stay out of my business and always tried to hug me.

Until she passed away last year.

Now, I would give anything to have her here to worry about me, tell me what to do, and ask how my day was. I have no one to worry about my business and no one now to hug me.

 

I swore I'd never have a baby. They were dirty and clingy and took up too much of my time.

Until I accidentally got pregnant.

Now, every time I look into her eyes or hear a giggle, I crave to clean her pudgy face, yearn to hold her tight, and look forward to giving her all of my time.

 

Jeff loved his entry-level job at the office. He was interested in his work, looked for things to do, and always had positive things to say about it. He loved that he was required to wear a shirt and tie to the office (instead of blue scrubs or overalls with grease all over them) and tried to find the good in everyone around him.

Brent hated his job at the office. He had the same job as Jeff, but he hated getting up in the morning, hated having to dress in a shirt and tie, and hated everything his boss or anyone else did. He couldn't understand why Jeff loved that job so much.

Who do you think was happier?

© Blake Werner

 

I became angry at the traffic on my way to the Army Hospital for my son's crucial hearing test, and I cursed the broken down car that I assumed was the cause.

As I moved closer to the front, I watched as a severely wounded soldier who had been life-flighted from Iraq was now being officially escorted by a uniformed group of his company soldiers.

Being early to my son's appointment suddenly seemed much less urgent.

 

Liz asked to quit her church position because she was too overwhelmed with life. What did she have to be overwhelmed about? "We all are overwhelmed."

Until her husband explained. She has health problems which make it hard for her to get out of bed in the morning, and children who require a large amount of attention to function throughout the day. They have been assigned to move overseas again, and she just found out that she is pregnant.

I guess I should have just taken her word for it.

 

I thought the German people were harsh and mean, and that they punished innocent people for no reason like in World War II, which was the view taught to me in my American school.

My German neighbor thought all American people carried guns in their purses and transformed every part of their body with plastic surgery, the only view she saw on television.

Until we met.

© Jessica Ceason Photography

 

I was irritated by the Spanish-speaking family who lived next door because they did not learn the language or the rules of America …

… and I was irritated when they needed help translating electric bills, or finding the nearest grocery store …

Until I moved to a different country and hadn't yet learned the language, or learned the rules, and I needed help translating, and finding the nearest grocery store. My perception changed…

 

I challenge you this month to open your mind and reflect on your perceptions of life and people. Try to see things from a different perspective; try to see from someone else's perspective, or change your own. Empathize. Step outside yourself. And choose to see the world from a different, higher point of view.