Perception vs Perspective: How to Adjust Your View to Restore Your Hope

Perception vs Perspective: How to Adjust Your View to Restore Your Hope November 20, 2022

Perception and perspective drive everything we do, but what’s the difference between the two? Here’s the difference between perception vs perspective:

Perception is how we receive information, and it’s driven by our personality, beliefs, and experiences. Our perspective, on the other hand, is where we’re standing and the viewpoint from which we see things.

Perspective can be defined as “a visible scene.” It’s what we see.

Perception can be defined as a belief, an opinion, or a mental image of how things are. It’s how we see things.

These are very closely related but aren’t the same thing. They do, however, work together to determine our opinions about life.

For example, imagine that I set a donut down on a plate for my son to eat. It has chocolate icing on one side and is plain on the other. I lay it down on the plate with the chocolate side facing down, and when my son gets to the table, he immediately starts complaining. He complains because he likes chocolate donuts and not plain ones.

His perception could be that he isn’t going to get what he wants. So I let him complain for a moment until I tell him to flip the donut over. He then sees that the very thing he was complaining about was actually the thing he wanted all along. He just couldn’t see the other side. He needed a perspective shift so he could see more of the picture.

Perspective and perception work hand-in-hand. When our perspective doesn’t line up with our perception, one of the two must shift.

Tension happens when our perception and perspective don’t line up and adjustments aren’t made on either side of the equation to reconcile.

This is what happens when people say that God isn’t real, yet they see evidence for the supernatural all around them and they’re confronted with evidence that Jesus was real. There’s a tension there that won’t go away until either the person changes their perception to believing that God is real, or they’ll continue to try to find a perspective from which their perception can be justified.

(Get the digital version of my book Grounded Faith for Practical People for free here. It’s a simple guide to having confident, fact-based faith in God.)

However, perceptions are either true or false; they’re not relative to our particular perspective.

True vs. False Perceptions

True perceptions are based on a wide perspective. They’re based on evidence that objectively points to established facts, which can only be seen from a wide perspective.

False perceptions are things we claim to be true based on a limited perspective, but evidence to the contrary is found in a wider perspective.

For example, there are a lot of people who believe that Donald Trump was a good president. That perception of him is based on their perspective – their beliefs, experiences, and personalities.

However, if they saw bad things coming out of his presidency, then their perception of him should adjust to fit that evidence. Either that, or they need to continue to adjust their perspective until it matches up with their perception that he was a good president.

If they truly still believe that he was a good president despite evidence of the alternative, then it could be that they’re not seeing the whole picture.

Wide vs. Narrow Perspectives

The problem with perspective is, once you see something a certain way, it’s very difficult to unsee it from that perspective.

But too often in our lives, we let narrow perspectives shape our perceptions. Perspectives work best when they’re as wide as possible.

This is because we’re much quicker to adjust our perception (our beliefs) to match our perspective (our viewpoint) than we are to adjust our perspective to find what’s true.

Therefore, if your perspective is narrow, your perception is almost certainly bad.

How Perception and Perspective Determine Faith

If you’re going through difficult circumstances, don’t let it change your beliefs about God. Don’t let your current perspective change your overall perception as long as that perception is based on what’s evidently true.

However, if your perception is that God is that he’s more like a vending machine or a genie in a lamp, but your perspective tells you that bad things often happen to good people, then changing your perspective over and over and over won’t change the fact that your perception simply isn’t true.

You can know that it’s not true if an abundance of evidence goes against it. If you look around at the world, you’ll see that God clearly isn’t obligated to give us a good life simply because we’re “good.” Good people get cancer all the time. Good kids die in car accidents all the time. It’s an objective truth.

So, if our perception of God isn’t lining up with the perspective you see, then one of the two needs to adjust.

You can adjust your perspective constantly throughout your entire life to try to fit your perception, but sooner or later you’re going to bump up against the truth.

If, however, you use Scripture as the basis for your perception of God, then your basic perception will be that God is good and he is love. If that’s our perception, but our perspective isn’t lining up with that, then we know we just need to adjust our perspective to line up with our faith.

It could be that God is good, we’re just not seeing the whole picture.

An Example of Perception vs Perspective

I think about the story of a man who had a horse that ran away. His neighbor came to him and said, “What bad luck.” The man said, “Perhaps.”

Then, a few days later, the horse returned to the man with three other horses. The neighbor said, “What good luck.” The man said, “Perhaps.”

The next day, the man’s son went to try to ride one of the new horses but fell off and broke his leg. The neighbor again returned and said, “What bad luck.” The man again said, “Perhaps.”

A couple of weeks later, his son had to cancel a hiking trip because of his broken leg. On the mountain he was supposed to be hiking on, there was an avalanche at the same time he was supposed to be there. Had he been there, he would have almost certainly died. The neighbor returned and said, “What good luck.” The man once again said, “Perhaps.”

Do you see how perspective can change everything?

From one perspective, our perception of life looks one way. But we’re always one perspective shift away from a new perception, and we should remain open to that as long as our perception continues to be based on objective truth.

Here’s the bottom line:

Knowing the difference between perception vs perspective is the difference between living in perpetual darkness and living full of joy. When you’re going through times that make you feel as though God isn’t there or isn’t good, start by zooming out to a wider perspective. Take your mind to a place that’s not so narrow in its focus. Once we see the bigger picture, then we’re able to make a better judgment about what’s really going on and what’s good or bad.

Then, through a wide and diverse perspective, our perception heads in the direction of the truth.

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