The other day, I was talking to a neighbor whom I hadn’t spoken to for a while. I asked her if she had been walking lately in this heat, and she responded with a statement that surprised me: She made a remark about me always being out there running rather than walking.
What’s interesting is that, over the last couple of years, I have had several folks refer to seeing me always running or walking in our community. The truth is that in the last couple of years, I have run very few times and have walked maybe 10 or 12 times total. I asked myself why people would even say that.
The word that came to me was “perception.” When you see someone do something more than once, it’s easy to perceive that they must be doing it on a regular basis.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we need to understand that people are watching us and forming opinions. Take, for instance, if they hear you slip and say a cuss word. It would be easy for others to perceive that this is your everyday language.
I had a friend once who used get drunk with his old friends on weekends. When I met him, he didn’t even drink, but one weekend an old Army buddy whom he hadn’t seen in 20 years came into town and invited him to go out to eat. From there, for old times’ sake, they ended up at a bar and got stoned drunk, which resulted in a serious accident on the way home. He told me later that he had learned his lesson and was sorry he didn’t have the boldness to say no to his old friend, but the truth is that his reputation had been tarnished. He felt like his witness had been compromised because there were those in the community who perceived that his drunken weekend was a regular activity.
Matthew 5:16 tells us to let our light shine before others, making Christianity attractive. Just as bad decisions can produce negative perceptions, good decisions and behaviors can produce positive perceptions. If someone sees you perform an act of kindness, they can perceive that this is who you are — and hopefully, it is. Ask the Lord to help you to live a life every day so that random things you say and do will bring about a positive perception and draw people to God.