Seeing vs. Perceiving

2013-09-21 11.12.29“Make sure your football shoes aren’t muddy from practice before you walk around the kitchen.”

“I checked, they aren’t.”

Clearly, the shoes were still muddy. My son looked but obviously did not perceive. Not surprising for a 12-year-old boy.

Seeing means to “look at.” Perceiving means “to become aware of, know or identify, to recognize, discern, envision or understand.”

My son may have looked at his shoes, but he failed to become aware of the mud on them. He simply went through the motions of looking to be able to tell me, truthfully, that he did what I asked. Just general 12-year-old laziness and lack of maturity.

Seeing but not Understanding

My son should outgrow his tendency to see but not internalize what his eyes observe. At least, he will if he remains teachable.

Unfortunately, many people fail to stay teachable. Well, honestly, many never become teachable in the first place. For whatever reason – an unforgiving spirit, cultural influence, pride, etc. – too many people refuse to gain understanding. They may see evidence but refuse to plunge into truly perceiving what they see.

Busyness provides a great excuse to avoid seeking understanding. We can play victim to it and never have to admit that we are simply trying to do too much. We need help. We need others to teach us. We need to be willing to learn.

I’m not talking about learning how to use Twitter or set up a blog. I’m not even talking about learning how to write or speak better or in any way to become more efficient at our vocations in a way that reduces busyness. I’m talking about dealing with the things that create the atmosphere of the inner self. I’m talking about not letting feelings and circumstances dictate actions. I’m talking about a person’s character.

Jesus got at this issue in Mark 4 where he talks about those who see but don’t perceive meaning and who hear but don’t understand (v 12). What happens when a person fails to push through to understanding and true perception? They fail to turn from wrong. They fail to enter the freedom of forgiveness.

The Mud on Your Shoes

Too many people fail to see the mud on their shoes; they fail to see the need for change, for taking action to clean up a small mess by stomping out their shoes in order to prevent the bigger mess of mud tracked into the kitchen and then onto the carpet.

Keeping the kitchen and foyer floor clean is the bane of my existence at times. Maybe that’s why this muddy shoe incident got stuck in my craw. But it really reflects on a bigger issue of having to constantly clean up messes or make huge allowances because others fail to clean the mud of their shoes. Some days I get frustrated over the extra work caused by others laziness and failure to perceive a small problem they could easily correct.

Making Allowances

“Make allowances for one another’s faults, and in so doing obey the law of Christ because of your love.” (Ephesians 4:2)

Does this mean I say nothing when the mud on their shoes gets all over the kitchen floor requiring extra sweeping and mopping before it gets on someone else’s feet and gets tracked onto the carpet?

Yeah, sometimes it does. Sometimes, it means they don’t see it yet, it’s a fault maybe I need to overlook until they have the maturity to see the mud on their shoes.

So when others traipse mud into my life causing extra work for me, I love them anyway knowing there’s maturity yet to come that will allow them to see and handle the mud. Just like when my son has muddy shoes, I will gently ask him to go outside and clean them off instead of lecturing about how much work he’s caused me by walking around the house in muddy shoes (at least, my intention is the former rather than the latter… I’m working on it).

Until he can perceive the mud and clean it off of his own volition, hand me the broom and the mop!

18 thoughts on “Seeing vs. Perceiving

  1. "There's maturity yet to come that will allow them to see and handle the mud." Well said Kari. I have to remind myself of that often-for myself but also for the younger followers of Jesus (age and term). it is too easy to expect certain behaviors or thoughts to be the norm when the person is nowhere near mature enough to understand that. Good, good post.

    • Thanks, Bill. I have made the mistake way too often of expecting more than was fair to expect. Now, I certainly believe in stretching people and expecting more of them, but there is a limit that goes into the overwhelming. Accepting where people are has power in it too. Seems like they become more willing to stretch and grow without me pushing them when I am willing to accept where they are. It's true in parenting and in other relationships as well. I know I am encouraged to grow when I know someone accepts me where I am right now. I need to remind myself of this often.

  2. Oh to stay teachable . . . that is my goal. It's so easy to get so set in my habits and excuses I can look just like a 12 year old with muddy shoes. Thanks for this great reminder Kari. Just when I think I'm doing pretty well, I get a reminder that I'm seeing and not perceiving. Staying humble helps us stay teachable. Thanks Kari!

  3. The thing is that it's so easy to get used to the mud on your own shoes but we all have a tendancy to be super aware of the mud on someone else shoes. I think that's a general human tendency. We just get so used to our problems and weak areas that we don't see them any more. Maybe that's why the book of Proverbs emphasizes the idea of being teachable so much. It's a great reminder that life is about learning, you can't grow without it!

    • Great point, Caleb! We need to constantly let the Truth of God's Word pierce our hearts. We need to keep aware of the Holy Spirit's prompting for change and caution. You are so right in that life is about learning. Without being teachable, we get stagnant and begin to die.

  4. I laughed when i read your post, Kari, because muddy shoes is a hot topic in my women's Bible studies, surprisingly! Although usually the muddy shoes belong to husbands. It's come up a couple of times when we're talking about annoyance and I ask for examples in class we can use to do some exercise (usually, something I call option charts). Teachable is a wonderful goal.

  5. Great post. I love the football shoe analogy. Of course, there are so many in the church who fail to check their football shoes when they enter the church too! In front of the locker room we had special scrub mats at the door for every player to clean their shoes, even though they had to take their shoes off before entering the locker room after every practice. Not everyone thought it was not applicable to them too but the trial ratted them out.

    • I have thought about getting a mat like that for by our back door. Just haven\’t yet. But we\’ve got 5 more years of football ahead of us, so I\’d better get on it. And, the trail of dirt always reveals the mud on our shoes.

  6. So much in this post, Kari. Very good! I know for me, I do so much better when I take the time to order my inner man. There are so many excuses to rush past it and I do sometimes, but it's incredible the difference I feel when I make the time. There's peace. I respond to people differently. I react to situations differently. I can love like what you're talking about and not lose it on someone who doesn't know any better yet. Like I said, good stuff and good reminders! Thank you, Kari.

    • Thanks, Jason! Ordering the inner man is crucial for a Godly life, that's for certain. Not rushing and taking the time to do it right makes a huge difference too. You're so right in that not only do we respond rather than react, but we have peace that only comes from God. Great additional thoughts.

  7. Perception is a difficult thing to measure. How do we know we are perceptive? How do we know we are not blinded to something? It scares me to think I am deceiving myself at times thinking I understand when I don't really. I know it helps to expose ourselves to God's word to help our understanding and perception. It also helps to talk and discuss issues with others who we know have wisdom or to read good books on ideas. How should one deal with not knowing? I do know to love is above all so if I question if I know what is going on I need to look for ways to love. What do you think Kari?

    • Good questions, Mark. I think accepting that we won't always know is important. And in that, we need to trust that God does know, he sees the beginning middle and end. As we learn to trust Him, we learn more about ourselves. The answer, I think, is more of Him. And I think you have the answer of how to deal with both what know and don't know, and that is love. But to focus in on when we don't know, I feel that if we aren't sure in an area, making the choice that promotes relationship – love – is the best option based on what God's Word says about it. Those are my initial thoughts. Let me know if you have additional ones!

  8. I know your point was tolerance when others don't perceive the mud on their shoes – but I was struck by the need to really examine our own lives. It's easy to see how others are deceived or aren't seeing things 100% correctly. I wonder what blind spots I have.

    • My point is almost always more than what I actually wrote. Time & space just don't allow for all of the points that I want to make usually. That's why I find such joy when someone makes those "extra" points in the comments. You hit on a bit one! We can look at others all day long and see their flaws and how we need to practice tolerance to some extent, but if we don't decide to do some self-examination, we live in conflict. And it's a conflict that people will see. They want to know that what we practice lines up with what we preach on every level. Self-examination has been one of the biggest things parenting has taught me. Oh, I could go on. Thank you for bringing up this point.

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