I recently learned a valuable lesson about how our perceptions can lead us to misinterpreting events and profoundly affect our relationships.
Not long ago, a dear friend of mine was away on a trip visiting his parents. His parents are elderly, so he spends most of his time taking care of them when he’s with them. His siblings have the caretaking responsibility when he’s not there. He and his mother love to go shopping when he visits. On this last trip, he called me when they were shopping for clothes to find out what size I wore. I was excited to see what he bought.
After he got home, I didn’t hear from him right away, which initially I didn’t give much thought to. He had been swamped with work right before he left, and since he’s self-employed, the work doesn’t get done unless he’s home to do it.
As a few days passed, I started to wonder why he hadn’t contacted me. All kinds of thoughts ran through my head. Was he upset with me for some reason? Had I done something wrong? Trying to figure out all the possible reasons of why he hadn’t yet called just made me feel worse.
I finally mentioned what was happening to my mother and told her how I was feeling. My brilliant seventy-five year old mother, who is my greatest coach, told me to refocus my attention and energy back on my own life, and let go of wondering what was going on with him.
My mom reassured me that he’d obviously been thinking about me or he wouldn’t have been buying me clothes while he was away. She also reminded me how painful it is to visit parents you haven’t seen for months, and see their physical and mental health rapidly declining. It takes time to regain your emotional equilibrium after such a stressful and challenging trip.
Listening to her talk, I suddenly viewed everything from a completely different perspective. I felt a huge sense of compassion. The trips to visit his parents had become increasingly difficult for my friend. I had not even considered all these other aspects to the story, and the way we interpret events are indeed our stories.
The hurt and rejection I’d been feeling disappeared as I hung up the phone with my mother. I wrote a short email to my friend letting him know I was thinking about him and hoped he was well.
He contacted me the following day. He said he’d been working non-stop ever since he got home. He was still overwhelmed with work, but asked if I’d like to come over that evening, so we could dance and go for a motorcycle ride together. As soon as I got there, he handed me a present wrapped in green paper with a red bow. It felt like Christmas. Neatly folded inside were the clothes he had bought for me while he was away, and some others he had purchased after he came home.
All the thoughts and feelings I’d had when he first returned from his trip seemed immaterial. The pain and suffering I’d put myself through were a result of my initial perspective and how I had interpreted not hearing from him.
When I changed my perspective, and was able to see the situation from a different point of view, my interpretation of what happened changed too. Instead of hurt and anger, my feelings shifted to love and compassion. That shift opened the door to a positive response from my friend.
When we’re feeling stuck in our pain, it is invaluable to be able to step back from our perceived point of view and see events and circumstances through someone else’s eyes. A negative, painful interpretation can shift to a more loving and positive one simply by changing your perspective.
Your Assignment: Take a look how you interpret events and circumstances that happen. Explore these ideas in a journal, and you’ll gain clarity, objectivity, and perhaps a new perspective on the people and events in your life.
Seeing events through another person’s eyes is not only a gift to them, but also a loving gift to yourself. You are giving yourself the power of choice to reinterpret painful events, and instead choose to create a life of love for yourself.