PERCEPTION: (noun) a mental impression  .  discernment  .  appreciation  .  realization  .  recognition  .  the way you think about  or understand  someone or something  .  impression  .  attitude  .  approach

Photography of Tree

With the many synonyms that perception has,  it is fairly easy to get a good idea of what  the word means.  One of the definitions is “a mental  impression,”  and we constantly have mental impressions of one kind or another.   But can we be always sure that what we perceive is the reality in a given situation?

Toward the end of last winter, I noticed that the Bradford pear tree in my front yard had whitish, scabby-looking bark that appeared to me to be fungus. Neighborhood watcher that I am, I checked out the other trees on my street and saw that all of them  had similar  “fungus” on their trunks.  When I couldn’t stand looking at the ugliness anymore,  I called the city ‘s help number and was allowed to speak with a nice gentleman  in the forestry department. I told him what I had seen; I  even said it was fungus, and told him about what Rachael Carson of Silent Spring fame had to say about diseased elms in  certain cities in the northeast U.S.  He promised that  as soon as the rains held off, he would come out and take a look and let me know  what he found.

When the gentleman called, he told me that what I had seen  was indeed ugly and looked like fungus, but it was “lichens” (he spelled it for me).  “They’re good for the trees,” he said. “They have a kind of symbiotic  relationship.” I was enlightened—and humbled.

Some time ago, A Harvard University professor returned to his Cambridge, Massachusetts home from a trip overseas and tried entering his home but found that the door was jammed.  His cab driver helped him  pry open the door, and they entered the house. In a short while, a policeman appeared, and the professor was arrested.  A neighbor had witnessed the activity and reported a break-in.  The arrested man, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was returning home from China. He is a nationally known educator and host of the PBS series “Finding Your Roots.”  He is also black.  The incident was highly publicized.

I see these two incidents as something like  a cautionary tale: things are not always what they seem.  False perception can  be harmless or it can have serious repercussions.  There are a few things we can do to  prevent unfortunate fallout from  our misperceptions,

  1. Avoid jumping to conclusions.
  2. Try not to trust your eyes only. Get the facts.
  3. Be willing to change your mind when the facts  are presented.

Discernment, one of the meanings of perception,  is a gift from God. We can use this vital gift of discernment wisely to look at situations  in an unbiased, clear-eyed fashion and as a result  arrive at a useful, harmless  conclusion.




What you see and what you hear depends a great deal
on where you’re standing.
It also depends on what
sort of person you are.”

C.S. Lewis