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“A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees” (William Blake).
WE OFTEN DO GREAT DAMAGE TO OUR RELATIONSHIPS BY FAILING TO BE PERCEPTIVE. As hard as it is to admit, a friend who is admonishing us may be exactly right when he or she says, “You just don’t get it.” And by the time we finally do “get it,” great harm may have been done by our failure to see certain things.
To “perceive” means to “see” something, not with our physical eyes but with our minds. Two people may “see” the same set of physical circumstances, but one may more fully understand the significance of what has been seen. An experienced crime scene investigator, for example, “sees” more at a murder site than a less perceptive observer. As Charles Kettering said, “There is a great difference between knowing a thing and understanding it.” So those who are perceptive not only “look,” but they also “see.” And they not only “see,” but they understand the meaning of what they see. They truly do “get it.”
The fact is, we can grow in our perceptiveness. If we lack discernment, we can acquire it. And doing so ought to be one of the highest priorities of our life and work. “Perception of ideas rather than the storing of them should be the aim of education. The mind should be an eye to see with rather than a bin to store facts in” (A. W. Tozer).
But how do we learn to be more perceptive? Here are two ways:
Commitment to reality. There are none so blind as those who will not see, and so to become more perceptive we must honestly want to see things as they really are, and not merely as we wish them to be. We must always want to know the truth — even the painful truth.
Practice, practice, practice. A baseball umpire gets better at calling balls and strikes not by reading books but by getting behind the plate and calling lots of pitches. So we get better at “getting it” by using our perceptive powers over and over, always learning from our mistakes.
The power to perceive is especially important when it comes to the higher and nobler things in life. In trivial matters, no great harm is done if we can’t see the difference between good, better, and best. But in matters of love, justice, and beauty, the ability to perceive what is most excellent is an ability that no honorable person can lack.
“The perception of beauty is a moral test” (Henry David Thoreau).