Perspective is a particular attitude toward a way of regarding something; a point of view. Perspective-taking is the act of viewing a situation or understanding of a concept from an alternate point-of-view. While my perspective is most familiar to me, the Bible urges me (and you!) to perspective take, to take another’s perspective.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4
“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” Romans 12:3
My perspective can only get me so far. It keeps me focused on myself, my concerns, my issues, my complaints. When I’m only aware of my own reality, when I don’t understand my experiences in relation to those of others, I tend to think things are much worse for me than they really are. The point of perspective-taking is not to remember to be thankful for what I have because it could be a lot worse. No, the point of perspective-taking is to participate in making the reality of another’s human experience more tolerable, even pleasant.
Perspective-taking is very powerful. Perspective-taking turns victims, people who think they “have it bad,” into heroes, people who help those who have it worse. How? Because the focus of perspective-taking is on the other, not the self. The ‘self’ makes my situation too difficult to overcome without the help of everyone around me. The ‘other’ makes my situation fade in light of helping them overcome. The ability to help another is a much more powerful motivator than the self.
No matter your situation, you have the opportunity to perspective-take, to a) consider the needs of those less fortunate than you, and b) give--yourself, your time, your skills, your money, your prayers, your thoughts, your ear. The suffering of another can be lifted, even a little (and likely a lot), by the selfless act of, as Paul says, looking to the interests of others.
While my default is to consider me, there’s nothing extraordinary about living that way. In fact, it’s terribly ordinary. But, when I turn off autopilot, and look around me, I see you--
You whose baby was born with a serious heart defect, who had open-heart surgery at four months old, while mine was born healthy, and though I have my hard days, you have many, many more, and you need me to think about you.
You who’s raising seven children in a hostile land where your language isn’t spoken.
You whose dad drank too much and hit you too hard.
You whose physical illness makes getting through every day a challenge.
You who’s insecure.
You who’s afraid, of anything and everything.
You who can’t seem to make ends meet.
You who can’t seem to make any friends.
You who can’t seem to stop being depressed.
You who sees the glass half empty, who needs my glass half full.
You who needs me to think about you so that the world has a chance to take on a better shape than the one it has now.
I believe in the power of perspective-taking. Please, Let this same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5).