Everything depends on perspective

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A lot has been said about how your outlook changes what you experience. The same situations can affect people differently. It's a recurring question: What determines how various people view the same circumstances?

That query came to mind recently as I considered a recent afternoon conversation. Viewpoints were different because of an individual's mood and the circumstances in which they found themselves.

The topic of discussion was whether we enjoyed nighttime or days more. I stated that I prefer nights after everybody's in bed because I can meditate, dream and indulge in quiet time doing as I please. The day's work is done and I can renew my energy and enthusiasm for tomorrow.

One woman with whom I talked said she preferred evenings, too, because she could "get away from it all." Her days were filled with duties that were difficult and mundane, but necessary. At night she could relax and put the day's taxing atmosphere behind her. Watching television, reading or visiting on the phone lifted her spirits to face yet another day. We both liked evenings better, but for different reasons.

My mother, on the other hand, "disliked" the darkness of night. She dreaded the somberness evenings brought. She lived alone and the stretch between dusk and dawn was long and dreary. She could scarcely wait for daylight when movement and brightness resumed. Many, unable to care for themselves, loathe the quiet and starkness of night. They're often in bed early and time drags before the sun is up again. To some, night brings rewards, to others anxiety. Outside circumstances directed those attitudes.

A friend, Jamie, recently related she was disgusted with work and worried about her family. She even questioned whether there was a God. If there was a God, why did he allow bad things to happen to those who tried so hard? Yet, from my standpoint, Jamie had a good life. She was attractive, gifted and friendly, her young adult children loved her and, in general, her existence seemed enviable. After she voiced her concerns with her lack of enthusiasm, I pointed out, subtly, the positive I saw.

I felt she needed to do as Jesus advised and "Come apart and rest awhile" to get a fresh perspective on life (Mark 6:31). Jamie eventually realized she had allowed her thoughts to depress her. Most importantly, she had neglected to take time for herself and renew her spirit and remember that, although life gets messy, beauty is hidden underneath.

Talking with God is the master plan for the doldrums and developing a positive perspective. Most depression, discontent and restlessness, excluding medical reasons, stem from fear or worry.

It may be fear your children will not turn out as you wished, your finances will be insufficient to carry you through, or your health will deteriorate or that no one will love you. But more fears are based on "what's happening tomorrow." St. Francis de Sales told people to "not look forward to what may happen tomorrow. The same everlasting father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow." Depending on your perspective, you can trust or fear tomorrow.

Although some have more difficulty, life can be full or empty, within. It's our choice.

Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: