What do you see when you look in the mirror? Is it what you were really looking for? Our reflection is greatly influenced by our perspective; within each of us reside the voices of optimism and pessimism. Each view of life is from a different perspective. The pessimist sees our wrinkles or gray hair and regrets our lost youth or missed opportunities. The optimist sees the beauty and wisdom forged by age and instead of regret, it views the experiences gained as badges of honor. One looks ahead with skepticism or backwards with regret. The other chooses to enjoy today. Rather than living in the past, it looks forward to the adventures and challenges of tomorrow. We each have the God-given ability and power to choose our perspective. 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us:
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
We have the opportunity to decide what kind of day we will have. We can’t control what may happen, but we can control how we react. According to the Dalai Lama (2016) controlling how we react requires cultivating perspective, humility, humor and acceptance. He refers to these qualities as the four pillars of the mind. He explains that:
“We create most of our suffering, so we should be able to create more joy. The key is our perspective and the thoughts, feelings and actions that come as a result.”
The impact of perspective cannot be overstated, but its effects are too often ignored, rationalized or justified. An advertising campaign sponsored by Dove brings attention to the effects of body image and hair discrimination, especially in social media. New research reveals “that appearance hate, and discrimination caused by toxic beauty standards is a $500+ billion public health crises.” The research further reveals that “8 in 10 youth mental health specialists say social media is fueling a mental health crisis.”
It isn’t just the beauty industry or social media contributing to the mental health crisis. All too often, we are judged by our outward appearance. This type of judgement or comparison fosters an environment of “otherness”, often accompanied by a sense of isolation, despair, and hatred towards others and ourselves. In recent years, we have experienced increases in domestic and workplace violence, antisemitism, and especially suicide. Too often, we fail to see these problems are caused not only by how we view ourselves, but also how we view our problems. It seems we have forgotten that hatred will never allow itself to be contained, it will always find a way to manifest itself. Fortunately, God doesn’t judge us by outward appearances (1 Samuel 16:7, NLT).
“People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
We can begin to change our perspective by aligning our “head” to see ourselves as God sees. When we begin to align our head, we create “headspace” to cultivate a different perspective (God’s perspective). According to the Christian Science Monitor, paraphrased from Isaiah, Chapters 41-43, God’s perspective tells us:
“I have made you. You are precious to Me.
I love you. I will help you. I have called you.
I have chosen you. You are Mine.”
When we adopt God’s perspective towards others, and ourselves, we are ultimately led to humility, the second pillar of the mind. C.S. Lewis explains that “humility isn’t thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” Humility frees us from the trap of pride or arrogance that fuels the need to keep up with the Joneses, or falling victim to society’s unrealistic expectations. Rather than competing with others, humility frees us to be ourselves and treat others through a different mindset (1 Peter 3:7-9, ERV):
“So all of you should live together in peace. Try to understand each other. Love each other like brothers and sisters. Be kind and humble. Don’t do wrong to anyone to pay them back for doing wrong to you. Or don’t insult anyone to pay them back for insulting you. But ask God to bless them.”
Our daily decision to choose our perspective isn’t just attitudinal, it’s part of the greater battle against, what the Bible describes as, “the forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12). How do we prepare for this battle? Sports teams have a “playbook”, actors have “scripts” but for war a “battle plan” is needed. The Apostle Paul provides our plan throughout Ephesians laying out a six-step process:
- Prioritize our life with God (Ephesians 2:8-9).
- Live an authentic life (Ephesians 5:8).
- Strive for unity (Ephesians 2:21-22)
- Surrender the past (Ephesians 4:31-32).
- Embrace humility (5:21).
Challenge: An excellent resource for understanding and making the plan relevant to today is available at Christianity.com. Next month we’ll continue our journey into aligning the head by finalizing our exploration into humility and looking at the concepts of humor and acceptance, the final two qualities on the four pillars of the mind. I hope and pray that you will join us.