Everyone has his or her own unique perspective on life, and no two can be exactly alike. Perspective depends so much that can’t be replicated in another person (family, upbringing, friends, faith, culture, education, past trauma, past triumph, etc). We can’t possibly make others see things exactly the way we do, but when we understand this, we no longer need to.
Allowing others to share their unique perspectives can only enrich us, and often illuminate the gaps and flaws in our own perspective that we are blind to otherwise. When we refuse to entertain differing perspectives, we diminish ourselves. When we let the fear of being wrong close our minds, it doesn’t make us right; it only makes us unable to know the difference. Like the parable of the blind men and the elephant, we are never so right that we can’t afford to broaden our own perspective.
But there is more to perception than differing perspectives. We filter external reality through the lens of interpretation. And often our interpretations are heavily influenced by how we are personally affected. We like what makes us feel good and dislike what makes us feel bad, and seldom ask ourselves why. We miss so much that is outside of our own subjective experience when we let our egos determine how we interpret what we see.
If we want the ability to broaden our perspective and the freedom to see beyond arbitrary value judgments that distort the way we interpret our experiences, we must accept responsibility for doing so. There is always a link between freedom and responsibility. We can’t have one without the other. Because we can’t change what we don’t control, and we can’t control what we refuse to own. I don’t think it’s possible for humans to possess absolute objectivity and perfectly interpret everything around us – but I do think it’s possible to continually improve the way we see and interpret our world, and accept that any limitations are ours, and stop projecting them outward. Projection distorts what is really there. It offers escape from the burden of responsibility, but at the cost of our own self created suffering. We imprison ourselves in a projected version of reality that doesn’t exist outside of our own minds. And no matter how much we may pollute our perceptions to escape responsibility, we can’t force anyone else to share our distortions – although that very attempt is behind most of the troubles people have in their relationships.
So much of our discontent could be resolved if we cling to our own opinions a little less and entertain those of others a little more. Taking the reigns of perception away from our ego, we can open up our own possibilities for happiness, enhance our ability to love, cultivate better relationships, and transform our lives. Having the courage to look within and take responsibility for ourselves gives us the opportunity to grow. We can finally begin to correct the distortions in our worldview, which results in corrections in our conduct and behaviors which stem from them. That’s when miracles start to happen. We “cleanse” our eyes and see things anew. Then we no longer need to paint our circumstances so bleakly just so we can play the role of victim, instead we empower ourselves to change them. We no longer have to endlessly try to win arguments with people we are supposed to love just to escape being wrong, instead we understand that winning requires someone else to lose, so we resolve disagreements without competing. We don’t have to leave the problems in our lives unsolved simply to avoid blame, we take a solution oriented approach regardless of blame. We can let go of trying to be perfect and accept our limitations, giving us the ability to freely accept the imperfections and limitations of others. We then discover that boundaries don’t have to be barriers and that mending fences isn’t the same thing as building walls. And by admitting to ourselves that we don’t have all the answers, we enable answers to be found.
With a little less hubris and a little more humility, we can watch the possibilities that have always existed suddenly manifest before our very eyes. Such sincere humility is the “amazing grace” that can save us from ourselves. The law of karma says we reap what we sow. Who among us wouldn’t prefer to cultivate love?
How is it done? By carefully removing the stones in the field of our hearts, softening the topsoil and fertilizing it with empathy and compassion, offering the best seeds of love we have to offer, removing any weeds as they appear, and insuring there is enough Light to foster growth. When we stop waiting for someone else to save us, and learn how to save ourselves, we enable ourselves to appreciate what was there all along. The magical cornucopia called life.