“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.” —Winston Churchill (1874-1965), Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, 1940-1945 and 1951-1955
I came across the above quote by Winston Churchill in an email I received, and it goes along with a blog post I published yesterday on my regular blog titled, “The Persistence of Memory.” The way we view things in life or view life in general, whether past, present, or while anticipating the future, is so very important regardless of one’s circumstances.
A lot of the art of life is about perspective. The ability to change our perspective based on the situation at hand is a key part of creating a life worth living. There is the old saying that we can handle the big things, it’s the daily irritations that kill us. And daily irritations are very often a matter of perspective.
I find that most of my distress day to day comes from too narrow a perspective. I have narrowed down my field of view to only this ONE thing. I have become extremely myopic and can’t see anything beyond this problem or desire.
Taking a wider perspective almost always helps.
There are three main filters I use to widen my perspective:
- Personal Importance
Time: The Time filter is pretty straightforward. I can choose at any time to view the situation from a wider time perspective. Will this matter in 5 days, 5 months or 5 years? This helps very quickly to get back to a workable perspective. Since I know that everything is impermanent and all things shall pass, the act of taking a wider time perspective helps relieve that anxiety. Is this issue going to matter next week or next month?
Personal Importance: In this situation I need to consider the stress in the bigger scheme of my life as a whole. Oliver Burkeman is his excellent book, “The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Hate Positive Thinking,” advises that we ask our selves “What is the worst thing that can happen?” If we answer that question honestly, in a lot of cases it will give us the perspective we need. For example, if I am stuck in traffic and getting angry asking myself that question leads to the fact that I will be 10 minutes late getting somewhere or have 10 less minutes to do something else but beyond that nothing bad is happening.
Distance: Distance is harder to describe but no less important. It is about seeing more than I am seeing in my myopic moments. In this case I need to take the situation and consider it in light of the world as a whole. This is the classic “There are lots of people who have it worse than you”. While this does not always help, and pain is relative to a great degree it is important for me to at least run the situation through this filter. By and large I have a life that is free of major challenges and issues and most of my “problems” pale in comparison to real problems that many face.
When I remember to take the situations I’m facing and run them through these three filters more often than not I can get them in better perspective and make better decisions. (Quote source here.)
In an article published on April 10, 2017 titled, “Five Powerful Verses for When You Need a New Perspective,” by Leslie Newman, on “Journey to Imperfect,” she writes:
Perspective is all about seeing something from a larger frame of reference. The thing is, having the right perspective is awfully hard sometimes because we see things from such a small vantage point. It’s hard to step outside of our ordinary ways of thinking to see God’s bigger picture. Even when we are looking for that bigger picture, many times God, in His infinite wisdom, chooses not to reveal it to us.
This can result in frustration and bad attitudes as we deal with our own lack of understanding. We will often have the wrong perspective because we are looking at things through our own eyes instead of having the faith to look up and see the One who is holding the framework of a bigger picture.
For those times when you struggle to understand, when you don’t know which direction to go, or what to pray, here are some verses that will make a big difference:
“But we have the mind of Christ.” —I Corinthians 2:16
This is a little hard to grasp, isn’t it? But you can count on God’s word as truth. We can think like Jesus and we can have His attitudes. This is God’s promise, right here in black and white stated as simply and as clearly as can be stated. We have the mind of Christ. Remember this because it is the truth.
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” —Philippians 2:5
Not only does He promise we can have the mind of Christ. He gives it to us as a command to follow. We have the promise, now we have to do the work.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” —Romans 12:2
In this verse, we are told that we should not be thinking like the world thinks, but instead, we should be transformed by renewing our minds. If we will do this, we have a promise that we will be able to understand the will of God. If you would like to study this verse in more depth, you will find some valuable insights from a word study in this post.
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” —Colossians 3:1-3
Can you imagine the love that God has for you that He would take your very life, protect and shield it, and hide it safe with Jesus? We can count on the fact that what we have in Jesus goes far beyond our daily lives here and takes us straight to the heart of God. This is such a treasure to hold on to. We can set our mind on things above because Jesus is our very life.
“For from His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.” —John 1:16
From grace to grace, all we have to do is receive it. (Quote source here.)
Our perspective—the way we interpret what’s happening around us—can make or break us in any given situation. Our perspectives shape us, how we think, how we engage with people, how we action in our every day. Perspective creates opportunity to grow and opportunity to step out, or how it can hinder our progress and restrict us.
Clues to what type of perspective we have is in some of the phrases we regularly say or think. If your perspective leans to the negative you may not even be aware of it. Thinking the worst can be second nature after years of doing it. But it can be influencing how you live life and keeping you from getting the best out of it.
A negative perspective says:
I will never
I could never
That always happens to me
That never happens for me
That’s not possible
It’s language is negative and limiting
It’s reactive vs proactive, seeing the bad in people and in situations.
A optimistic perspective says:
I will try
It’s going to be okay
Let’s keep going
It’s language is positive and overcoming.
It is responsive and proactive, choosing to see the good in people and situations.
A faith filled perspective says:
I can do all things through Christ
I am more than a conqueror
With God nothing is impossible
Positive perception says that failure is part of learning, that we can do hard stuff. We need to turn down our negative self talk and make intentional decisions to transform our perspective, from the inside out.
God is calling us to have an enlarged perspective of His faithfulness and power as we step into a new year, to be aware of His ableness vs. our own limitations and vs. what the world may say.
God sometimes has a totally different perspective than us. His challenge for us is for us to align our perspective with His, to see things from His vantage point.
We can begin again and change the way we think. Changing the way we think sets us on a new road that trusts more, dares more, loves more and lives more. (Quote source and the rest of the article is available at this link.)
I’ll end this post with the words from Paul in Philippians 4:13 who gives us the final word in this post on the proper perspective . . .
I can do all things . . .
Through Christ . . .
Who strengthens me . . . .
YouTube Video: “Beyond Me” by TobyMac: