Perceptions, Judgements and Principles

Perceptions, Perspectives, Judgments and Principles

I am reading Steven Covey's book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. (This book is very powerful if applied i.e. read over and over and applied. It is a waist of time reading it just for knowledge and only reading it one time.) Also, my family just returned from a week of work on the Yakama Indian reservation in Washington State.

I have several observations based upon my experiences and what I am reading.

1) We are quick to judge based upon our perception of the the situation.

Our perspective, i.e. the lens from which we look through determines our perceptions. It is easy to judge in this manner.

I learned that my judgments are not always true and that there is always more to the story. For instance, the Native American is considered lazy, not willing to work. But, that is our perspective and we are defining work. (This reputation initially came about when the US Gov't Bureau of Indian Affairs tried to force the Sioux Indians to farm in the Dakotas. The attempt was doomed from the beginning. They were being forced to farm in an arid environment with no irrigation and there was also a severe drought during that time.) In actuality, the Native American had a very strong work ethic but showed in differently via hunting, fishing and gathering. The tribe supported everyone as a whole, very little individualism.

2) With no personal experience, the judgment is made that our way is always the best way.

This position comes from insecurity, greed or arrogance. You can not determine if your way is the best way until you truly, not superficially, investigate the other ways. There IS truth and there are best ways, but most people are lazy and are not willing to investigate. When they do investigate, it is generally from their value perspective, not principles.

For instance, The Native American society focused on community versus individualism thus capitalism does not take strong root. Many view this attitude of community inferior to individualism.

3) To truly know someone, spend time with them in their daily life.

There is truth about the old saying that it is difficult to understand another until you "walk a mile in his/her shoes."

Jesus, even went beyond that. In Roman times, a person could be conscripted to carry a Roman soldier's pack for a mile. Jesus suggested going an extra mile. The second mile is where relationships begin to be built and barriers to communication, community, prejudices begin to fall.

Most people who are quick to judge are not willing to get involved. It is easier to be an arm chair judge than commit yourself to understanding. Too risky to get involved; it might change your life.

4) The way we SEE the problem IS the problem. (Steven Covey)

Most people want a quick fix, wrap-it-up type of solution, and therefore view problems from this perspective. Take the Native American for instance, many claim they are lazy, won't work and are untrustworthy. The truth is that the Native American won't trust a white man. If you see their history, for every 1 white person that was trustworthy, 10 cheated them. The US Government being the biggest cheater by not abiding by its own treaty.

Most people don't take the time or are not willing to find the underlying chronic problem. Chronic problems take time and lots of effort to change or fix. Most people want to deal with the symptomatic problems and provide a quick fix. This approach to chronic problems IS the problem.

Do you approach marriage, parenting or work problems this way? "If the other person would just do this.... my problem would go away?" "If I my life was better I would not be angry." "If my kids would behave better..." "I would give if I had more money."

Most chronic problems in relationships are due to a focus on self and not a focus on others. "I am supreme and therefore all others must adjust to me." The way we SEE the problem IS the problem.

4) Look for principles before you judge with values.

Principles are deep foundational truths that have universal application and should be our benchmark for judgment, not opinions, perspectives or even values. Covey says that principles are guidelines for human conduct that are proven to have enduring, permanent value. (Values are typically cultural.)

For instance: the principles of courage, discipline, community, love, honesty can be demonstrated in many ways depending on the culture and the community. In many cases, we take little time to see if these principles truly exist but are being demonstrated in another way. We apply our cultural value and then make a judgment. (We all do this but the question is, "Are you open to investigating deeper to find the principles?")

For example, a middle class value is to place emphasis on ownership of things. A value demonstrated in Native America is to place value/ownership on relationships over things. Where a middle class person will spend money to maintain an item, a Yakama Indian will spend money to build relationship and neglect the maintenance of the item.

As a result of this cultural difference and value, I had the tendency to judge in thinking "These people don't care about what they own and are poor stewards." In actuality, the principle that they are demonstrating is "Love your neighbor as yourself." They have limited funds so they are spending them where they matter the most, on people, not things. By maintaining my car, house, etc., I could actually be guilty of greed or being self-centered (a negative principle) instead of spending time or money building relationship. From a middle class cultural value, looking from the outside, I was doing the right thing. From a principle standpoint, looking from the inside (my heart), I was guilty of not doing the right thing, loving another.

The applications to these are:

1) Spend your time developing worthwhile principles
2) Be willing to listen to another's viewpoint
3) Be willing to get involved to truly learn - As Covey says "Admission of ignorance is the first step in our education."
4) Examine yourself - are you living by principles or convenient cultural values that where pleasing YOU is the true principle?


"Love your neighbor as yourself."

Jesus was speaking to Jews about Jews so they are shared the same cultural values and Biblical principles. If your neighbor is not a Jew, then he/she may want to be loved in a different cultural way, not your way thus Jesus the story of the good Samaritan.

I have heard the modern translation would be "Love your neighbor as they would want you to love them."

Are you loving your kids or spouse they way they want you to love them or are you doing it your way, the convenient way? Have you taken time to actually find out how your spouse or kids would like you to love them? Do you even care?

What about your neighbor? Have you actually walked over and spent more than two minutes going beyond talking about the weather? Do you know what is going on in their life, their hurts, pains, problems or celebrations?

What about your customers? Do you take time to learn their industry, their problems or are just wanting to make a quick sale? Do you really care about customer service and meeting their needs or do you just want them to go away? The list could go on.

Do you view others as a means to get what you want? I suggest you look at the underlying principle to that perspective.

To learn principles that are life changing, you must study. Reading the Bible once, does not get it as just reading your Biology book once. You don't truly learn it, so you can't apply it. Just going to church on Sunday with no reading or self assessment during the week gives you a good warm feeling but no life changing experience.

Examine yourself "Are you going to church for self, to give you a good feeling?" If so, your 'act' of worship looks good (cultural value), but your principle is rotten for you are going not to worship or benefit others but just for yourself.

Principles supersede perceptions and values.


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