Sunday was a perfect beach day. The sky was clear and blue, the gentle breeze kept the sun from being overbearing, and the Gulf waters had perfect ribbons of aqua and green running parallel to the pristine white beach. After a while there, our 8 year old was the only one still interested in jumping waves and surfing on her small boogie board, so we parked under an umbrella nearby to keep an eye on her from the shore.
My husband noticed that the waves had picked up a bit as the tide came in, and was concerned about an area to our right that looked noticeably deeper, as evidenced by the darker hues of the water there. He called to her and told her to keep out of the deeper areas, but she seemed to keep drifting right back into the area we were concerned about. After a few more instructions yelled from the shore, we finally called her in. At this point, she was getting visibly frustrated with the instructions being called to her and tearfully said she didn’t know what we meant. Once more we explained that the area to our right was too deep and she needed to stay to the shallower areas for swimming and surfing. Again, she drifted right back out to the area we had instructed her not to, and we called to her once more.
This time her frustration had reached the melting point—from her perspective, her parents kept interrupting her surfing success with nonsensical directions that she obviously wasn’t understanding. My husband got up to show her the area for a final time and as he did, he tipped his Maui Jims down a bit to look at her…and then it hit him. Without his sunglasses, the variance in colors which marked the deeper water that we could see clearly were almost imperceptible. The “deep spot” that we kept referencing looked only a shade darker than the rest of the coastline without the benefit of UV lenses, making it nearly impossible to discern any difference.
He slid his glasses onto our daughter and pointed. “Ohhhh”, she exclaimed, “Yes, I see what you’re talking about!” Clarity melted away her frustration and as she eagerly grabbed her board and headed in the direction of shallower waters, my husband sat back down triumphantly. “She needed my glasses to see what we were talking about,” he explained, and then laughed. “Isn’t that almost always the case?”
While most cases of misunderstanding and frustration aren’t settled quite this easily, the underlying issue is almost always the same: we tend to think people are seeing with the same lenses and perspective that we are, even though they most definitely are not. Marital discord, parental arguments, sibling fights, workplace disagreements—they all stem from the fact that we see very clearly what we think is right, we believe others can see this same “fact”, and we don’t take into account that their view (or even their opinion of their view) could possibly be “true” as well. Go to any slightly controversial topic on Facebook and see for yourself—dozens of people on either side, all passionately defending their side as the truth. Rarely do people take a moment to consider what the other person might be seeing that makes their side look true to them or wonder if they’re seeing through the same glasses of reality to begin with. Just as we did with my daughter on the beach, we shout instructions or viewpoints and assume that they should be able to understand what we’re talking about: after all, it’s as clear as the Gulf waters to us. Few of us want to be in discord with the people we love and respect, but the discord creeps up any time we aren’t able to see that our view is unique to us.
The next time you feel yourself getting frustrated with someone, try to take a moment to notice your perspective. Maybe remove your sunglasses, or come down a step or two to the level of those around you. Try to see it from their perspective, or at least acknowledge the filters of your own perspective. Realize that what is true and obvious to you may not be to others, and that doesn’t make either of you wrong or right. Understanding the truth of reality—that there are often many truths in reality—helps you take yours just a little less seriously, and leaves room to see the truths of those around you, without which, connection is all but impossible.
If you’re interested in learning more about how your idea of reality may be keeping you from a healthy, happy, sober life, call Reed at 800.556.2966 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.