It’s All a Matter of Perspective

Have you ever heard the old story of the blind men trying to describe an elephant? The man by the tail thought an elephant was thin and sinewy like a snake. The man by the foot thought that it was solid and immovable like a wall. The man by its ear felt the cool breezes it created and the papery thinness of it, so thought it was like a fan. The man by the trunk admired its usefulness and flexibility and the way that it carried water, so he thought it was like a hose.

While man’s perspective is limited, God’s is not. He knows all the qualities and properties of the elephant he created, just as he knows what he has planned for each of us.

Oftentimes, our perspective is one of fear. When God told Moses that he was to be his spokesman, Moses pleaded with him to find someone else. I know that when God called me to go to the Lion of Judah the first time, a school our church supports in Africa, I was filled with fear. It seemed like a crazy request. Yet God’s call was clear to me.

Sometimes, our perspective is one of misinterpretation. Peter’s counsel caused Jesus to reply, “Get away from me Satan!”And Job’s friends counseled him to consider what he might have done to bring his curse upon himself when, unlike Jonah, he had been righteous and faithful and done nothing to deserve the calamity that befell him and his family. To us, who know God’s side of that story, it’s clear that Job’s friends were completely wrong. But I often wonder whether their counsel instilled any self-doubt, even if only for a moment, in Job.

Jonah, on the other hand, was just so completely certain that God must be mistaken that he chose to avoid going to Ninevah and headed for Tarshish instead. We all know how God redirected him. He was swallowed by a huge fish and was in its belly for three days and three nights.

Even in Jonah’s initial defiance though, we see evidence of God at work. Romans 8:28, one of my life verses, tells us that God works all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. And I do believe that Jonah loved God, he just didn’t “get him” at the time. (I know I’ve certainly been there more than once!) The comforting thing is, despite Jonah’s misdirection, God still was at work.

When the storm came and tossed the ship that Jonah was traveling on, the sailors were asking who was responsible for causing the angry storm. They cast lots to find the culprit and the lot fell on Jonah. They were terrified when they learned that he worshipped the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.

Jonah told them to throw him overboard and the seas would calm down. Instead, they tried to row back to shore, but they couldn’t. The storm simply grew wilder than before. So they prayed for God not to punish them for taking Jonah’s life and threw him overboard. Immediately, the sea grew still. Because of this, the men vowed to follow the Lord. So, even in Jonah’s defiance of God’s initial directive, good still came out of it.

Oftentimes, as we go through life our perspective is simply wrong. We question, we doubt, we procrastinate, we blame. It’s like we’re wired to see the negative more than the positive. And yet many wise men have built their careers and reputations touting the power of positive thinking. Napoleon Hill, Norman Vincent Peale, Bob Proctor, Tony Robbins, John Assaraf, Darren Hardy and many others have taught that the perspective we adopt is crucial to our success and happiness in life, and the choice is truly ours.

I have a friend who was diagnosed recently with the early stages of an aggressive form of cancer. Rather than being miserable that she has cancer, she’s thankful that it was found early. She recognizes that a significant portion of the success of her treatment will depend on how well she maintains a positive attitude, despite what she’s going to go through.

In my own life, I know that when my fiancé, Frank, died, I had to work at seeing the positive in that situation. But when I was able to be thankful for the short time we had together rather than mourning the fact that it was short, it made a huge difference. When I was able to recognize that I’d been the answer to someone’s prayer even though I was alone again and didn’t have what I  wanted, I was able to feel blessed at having been used by God in that way.

Every situation has multiple ways it can be viewed, and the one we adopt is the one that will impact us the most. Are you struggling with writing a certain piece? Perhaps that struggle is what will help you become a better writer or create just the right piece. Is it hard putting yourself out there and receiving rejections for your work? Yet as Carol reminds us, it’s one step closer to someone saying “Yes!”

When I brought in the first chapter of what eventually became my book “The Best is Yet to Come” and Carol (rightly) commented that I needed to do more than just share my story or it would only be read by people who knew me, I didn’t particularly like hearing that. Yet her words of advice are what ultimately made it a book I am proud of.

In this group, we offer different perspectives. They will help you become better writers, if you let them. You’ll have to examine each viewpoint to figure out which ones are right for you and your work, but it’s the process of exploring and seeking God’s wisdom in what we’re exposed to that helps us find gems that we’d otherwise miss. And that’s ultimately what helps us create the best work we can.

About Tara

Tara R. Alemany is a best-selling author and speaker. Her books include "The Plan that Launched a Thousand Books," "The Character-Based Leader," "My Love to You Always," "Celebrating 365 Days of Gratitude," and her latest title "The Best is Yet to Come."

In her spare time, Tara is a recognized thought leader who runs Aleweb Social Marketing, does her best to raise her two teenagers, and serves on two Boards of Directors. She is also Chaplain of her local Word Weavers chapter, and is a black belt in Tang Soo Do.

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