Everyone’s Perspective is Right

I wrote a post back in August called a Sympathetic Look at Difference and I think this post is going to be similar but make a lot more sense of what is going on in my head lately. I can’t stop struggling with the idea of people’s perspective and experience and how much it defines and shapes someone’s life. The way people interact with the world, God and each other is different and so everyone will have different beliefs based on those experiences. It would be ignorant to think that whatever beliefs I come to must be true for everyone else. It gets tricky though, because there are obviously objective facts like mathematic equations, events and other such things. So how do we reconcile subjective people with objective reality? The question has haunted me since my first philosophy class when my professor told us relativism was a joke while another professor treats reality as if we define it by what we think about it.

So I offer a few thoughts that help me sit perfectly, content on the fence between the two; sympathizing with both sides until they break down (because they both do).

1. No perspective is wrong. To tell someone that their perspective is wrong is to tell them their experience is wrong. A perspective does not have right or wrong attributes. Perspectives can be well informed or little informed. They can clear or blurry. They can be painful or joyous. But in the end a perspective is the lens that people look through, and lenses can’t be wrong. However, the conclusions that are drawn from perspectives can certainly be inaccurate. This is what I think is important to land upon. Conclusions based on perspectives are the things that need shaping, molding, disciplining and cleaned up, not people’s perspective. We are to be in a community of people whose perspectives are all vastly different and where we all shape each other’s conclusions. So in a sense, relativism makes perfect sense when we are talking perspectives. Everyone is entitled to their own perspective on anything, but perspective doesn’t equal truth. Everyone’s perspective is true, just maybe not the conclusions they are drawing from them.

2. Closely related to number 1; we need to understand that perspective is all people have. People fight passionately for the way they see things because in the end, all you have is your perspective. Some people try to add other things to the equation by saying that they have the Bible, or tradition or the majority that believes the same things but they fail to realize that those things come through their perspective. Keep this in mind in all circumstances; that we are define ourselves to others by our perspectives. So don’t make your perspective to antagonistic to others.

3. Some people have an easier time seeing the world through other people’s perspective than others. I get really frustrated when someone makes a comment about someone who I know acts a certain way because of something in their past. Why can’t they just understand where they are coming from? I think some of us have an easier time at looking at the world through other people’s eyes and some of us have a very hard time doing it. They key is remembering this and not getting to frustrated at those who maybe can’t step out of their shoes as easy as you can.

4. I touched on this in my post in August, but I’ll mention it again. Not every belief, action or situation can be thrown into the categories or wrong and right, or good and evil. We have a tendency to do this, but it makes things way more complicated than they need to be. Sometimes I wonder if we like to classify things because we know by doing it we are also doing it to ourselves. If I think not recycling is a major sin, usually those that recycle will be the ones to point it out and make a statement about it. Sometimes we just have to let our dichotomy of everything slip through our fingers and just let it be. Everyone likes to be the one that knows the objective answer. We should all do ourselves a favour though and keep our mouth shut way more than we open them.

Update: This is a comment Brenda made, thought it was excellent and helps bring a different way to look at all this

Comment from: Brenda Melles

hi nathan. we haven’t met, but i am a friend of al and garry’s from kingston so know your name and blog through the church plant crowd. struck me from reading this post that you might be interested in cognitive behavioural therapy. CBT’s name for what you call “perspective” is “belief”. the worldview of this therapy is that beliefs are what drive everything about us, including our feelings, behaviour etc. one model is ABC – activating event, belief, consequence. the activitating event can be trivial or profound. the point is, though we all might have the same activating event, what sits in the middle – our belief about what the event means or how it was motivated – is what drives the consequence for us. change the belief; change the consequence. your post reminded me of this whole CBT world, which has been transformative for a lot of people. thanks for what you write. have a great day. bren

7 Comments

  • hi nathan. we haven’t met, but i am a friend of al and garry’s from kingston so know your name and blog through the church plant crowd. struck me from reading this post that you might be interested in cognitive behavioural therapy. CBT’s name for what you call “perspective” is “belief”. the worldview of this therapy is that beliefs are what drive everything about us, including our feelings, behaviour etc. one model is ABC – activating event, belief, consequence. the activitating event can be trivial or profound. the point is, though we all might have the same activating event, what sits in the middle – our belief about what the event means or how it was motivated – is what drives the consequence for us. change the belief; change the consequence. your post reminded me of this whole CBT world, which has been transformative for a lot of people. thanks for what you write. have a great day. bren

  • Brenda, that’s awesome, thank-you so much for the comment, I’ll be sure to ready into this, its quite intriguing.

    I think I have heard of you also, in fact I think your mom taught me at Tyndale if I am not mistaken. Is your maiden name Posterski?

  • yip, that’s my mom. glad you were intrigued. try reading something by albert ellis, who is one of the main CBT guys. i find it interesting that beliefs have so much power, and that they can be changed, and that changing a belief can change everything else. by they way, saw a sign outside of a signshop in kingston yesterday – the kind of shop that sells custom-made nice numbers for your house – and it said “colquhoun”. who knew there was more than just you? :-)

  • interesting post.
    after some experiences tody, this post reminds me of God’s grace for us.

  • Nathan,

    I have been reading your blogs and find it very interesting. You made the statement that everyone’s persepective is right, I’m hoping that you mean it is right to them, for there are many whose perspective I don’t see as right but their perspectives fly in the face of scripture. My understanding of relativism is basically that there are not rights or wrongs, that it is a very subjective way of looking at things and as I see it, a very self focused model that says I am right irrelevant of what anyone else says. Example: a young boy is raised in a home where he is taught from day one that woman are second class citizens, they have no rights, they are properties to be owned and used and he has no respect for them other than personal pleasures. He therefore treats woman with no respect, uses them for sexual gain, is abusive, and says he is completely justified in what he is doing. According to your view, you are saying that he is right in his perspective and that I am to respect it. I don’t think so. I will respect him as a person as he is one of God’s creatures, but what he holds to be true is contrary to what the scriptures say and I dont’ believe that this person can be changed by changing his behavior, there is a need for a beleif change before there can be an outward change. Isn’t this what Christ came to do, to make us new creatures in Christ. He renews the heart as as a result the behaviors shouold change.
    I like CBT, however it requires us to change one’s belief system, to what? And here lies the problem, for in a world that embraces relativism, whose beleif system do we give. I can think of only one absolute and that is the scriptures. Move outside this and you set up major problems.
    Say hello to the family.

    Uncle Doug

  • Hi Uncle Doug, I don’t know if you and me are saying anything all that different. Here is what I said right after everyone’s perspective is right “However, the conclusions that are drawn from perspectives can certainly be inaccurate.”

    You said
    “I don’t believe that this person can be changed by changing his behavior, there is a need for a beleif change before there can be an outward change.”

    And I think your right on and agree fully, behaviour is a mere consequence of belief, changing behaviour doesn’t solve the issue. Behaviour is a bi-product.

    The belief system does have to change, and hopefully its one that Christ lives in giving us value and realizing that we are made in his image.

  • Hi Brenda! It has been a long time my friend. Nice piece of work!

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