"Real" Does Not Equal "True"
Have you ever noticed that when two people disagree, they both seem to be absolutely certain that their stance is the right one? Every argument is fought by people who have differing views. Consider the last dispute in which you were involved. How certain were you of your stance; and how utterly off the wall did you consider your opponent to be? Surely, they thought the same of you. Funny how that works. Let’s back up:
God designed us in His image. So, unlike objects and animals, we reflect Him in many ways. Like God, we feel profound emotions and have strong opinions, attitudes, values, principles and beliefs which come into play in every relationship.
God’s emotions, values and beliefs are always in alignment with absolute Truth. He’s the onlybeing who never misunderstands or misinterprets anything. He is never confused or deceived. His perceptions, interpretations and beliefs are always “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” He is truth, so anything that doesn’t line up with His Word, His design, His viewpoint is not truth. The entire design and creation of the universe was, after all, His idea. So, He has a corner on the absolute truth.
In contrast, our human emotions, values and beliefs are very often notin alignment with Truth. Our senses are constantly on the intake, sending messages to our brain at an unfathomable rate. The EDITOR section of our brain deletes from our consciousness whatever seems irrelevant. We have “filters” that have been installed over a lifetime of experiences, distorting and generalizing information. These filters cause us to misperceive or misinterpret what we experience. In short, we are very often deceived. No human ever has a precisely accurate perception of the whole truth in any situation. Nor, by the way, are we able to accurately judge anyone else’s intentions. All we have are our interpretationsof things. What seems very real to us is often not actually true. And that is definitely a major challenge to all our relationships.
Jan’s first marriage failed because her dishonest husband was more devoted to his addictions than their relationship. Many years later, when her trustworthy second husband of over a decade, innocently chose to meet a buddy at a brewery for a half hour after work, Jan’s inner world instantaneously exploded! Immediate, extreme feelings of rejection, anger, and despair overwhelmed her rational mind; and it even surprised Jan, herself. For the first time ever, she mistrusted her second husband and felt the terrifying threat of agonizing betrayal.
After hours of frantic emotions, speculation and tears, it occurred to Jan for a flash of a second that her out of control reaction far exceeded the gravity of the actual situation. It was as if a gargantuan army of emotions sneaked up on her out of nowhere, attacked her mind, and took her down! Even with this fleeting realization, she felt totally helpless to reconcile her distress. It took several days of questioning herself, and of prayer and counselling for her to realize that her perception of her husband’s behavior and his intentions were utterly inconsistent with what she knew to be true of him. But it was totally consistent with the trauma she had endured during her first marriage. A false belief system had been installed during that trauma which lay dormant for many years until it got triggered. Then it took on a power of its own which had the potential to rock an otherwise strong and stable relationship.
Jan’s feelings were real. Her past experiences were real. And traumatizing. But Jan had generalized the meaning she’d previously assigned to “men going to bars” (for sexual exploits). And that became a powerful false belief system. Based on past circumstances, the belief system felt real, but it was not truth. It was a distortion. And generalizing it, her mind temporarily deleted the truth that THIS husband had integrity; he was faithful, and he does not participate in compromising behaviors. She was projecting her past onto her present circumstances, which resulted in a relationship problem, when the actual relationship was not the problem. Nor were her husband’s actual behaviors or motives the problem. Jan’s perception and interpretations were the problem.
The next time you’re in an argument, a misunderstanding, a disagreement or a pickle of any kind, stop and say to yourself: “I wonder if I’m perceiving this situation in a different way than God is perceiving it.” And then ask God to show you His view.It might be helpful to ask yourself, “I wonder if I’m assuming something that isn’t true, or if I’m assigning a different meaning to what’s being said.” And then calmly ask the other person to please clarify.
We get deceived. We misunderstand. We misinterpret. We assume. We distort, delete and generalize. Every day, all the time! And all those things impact all of our relationships. It’s a good practice to wonder what false belief systems are causing feelings which are interfering with your rational thinking. It’s a good idea to practice “...taking every thought captive to Christ" (2 Cor 10:5). And Romans 12:2 tells us to be in a continual, lifelong process of being transformed (to become more and more like Jesus) by renewing our minds. This is a good start, with great pay-offs!
For practical, biblically-based help in sorting through false beliefs and unhelpful feelings, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Transform your life and your relationships today.
God bless us, everyone!
P.S. If you would like to contact me for a counseling appointment, you can email me at email@example.com, or call 612-239-4178. My office is located in Rocklin, CA.
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