I have been thinking about perceptions a lot lately. The perceptions we have of other people; of their lives, of their relationships and how distorted those perceptions often are.

We have a tendency to judge people on appearances, or on past behaviors, and often forget to look at the person who is standing right in front of us.

We can witness a personality trait and it can be good and kind, but then hear about a past incident and it alters what we believe to be true about that person.

Perception is a fickle thing.

I remember a time I heard members of my church gossiping behind another persons back.

I sat in a restaurant in our small town, a few tables over from a group of church "elders" and heard them tearing down another church member for the way she had handled herself in an emotionally tense situation.

I do not remember all the details of what they said, but what I do remember was a sinking feeling in my stomach. I remember thinking these people were leaders, and I wouldn't want them setting an example for anyone.

That was nearly five years ago, and since then I have witnessed some people from that same group regain my respect by quietly watching their behavior, and deducing that it was perhaps a lapse in judgement, a poor decision at the time. Others from that group, I have seen repeat that behavior and I would not trust them with personal information.

The thing is, none of them know I heard them and none of them know how it made me feel. I am still kind to them. I still try to be respectful, because I believe that living by example is so much more effective than shaming someone or trying to change them.

They can watch me accept people. They can watch me show kindness. Maybe that will make them want to be more accepting, maybe it won't, but it is their decision, not mine.

I read in this book the other day a story about a youth pastor leading kids and he said, "It's not my job to change people, just love them."

That speaks volumes. I cannot change the people around me, but I can choose to love them, warts and all. I can choose to be kind, to not judge by the cover, to look deeper.

We are all different. Our stressors look different, our joys look different, our families look different,  our lives look different.

No one else has the perfect life. We all have our problems, they just look different. I hurt, I cry, I scream, I make mistakes, but you don't see that. You see the good stuff and the stuff I am vulnerable enough to share.

We have to accept our flaws, our history, make peace with someone who has hurt us, so that we can move on with life.

I watched this video clip the other day about setting boundaries. We need to be kind and accepting of others, but that doesn't mean we give them permission to walk all over us, or to hurt us, or that we have to make ourselves vulnerable to them.

History of behaviors has its place. If someone is a known gambler, you might want to know that before you let him handle your finances. You have to use common sense, but form your own opinions based on peoples behaviors now, by the way they treat you, by the way they treat others. Learn about them, don't be so quick to judge based who they "use" to be.

I was raised in a small town, and have since moved to a slightly larger, yet still small town. I have friends who have lived here their whole life and sometimes they struggle to see other adults for who they are now. They are still stinging from injuries that happened years ago. I understand why. Wounds run deep and in small towns, rumors linger forever.

I am blessed with a lack of knowledge of peoples past indiscretions where I live and dually blessed with their lack of mine.

People who only knew me from high school would have a drastically different idea of me than those who knew me in my early twenties. Those who know me now, as a wife and mom to four little kids,  would have a drastically different perception than those who knew my younger self.

We all change, we all evolve. If we don't, then we risk becoming stagnant, never growing, never improving. I would never want to go back to the woman I was in my early twenties. I was insecure, vain and craved acceptance from the wrong people.

I am glad I am not the same person. What I have learned, is that hind sight really is all its cracked up to be. Looking back, there are things I would change, but its too late and if I changed them, I wouldn't me.

I am still wildly flawed. I make huge mistakes. I screw up as a parent everyday. My marriage is in a constant state of work. I swear more than I should, I have gossiped, and I hurt people. I would never pretend to be anything less than a work in progress.

I think about my kids and what I want them to see. I want them to know that there are good people and bad people. Just because you look a certain way, that doesn't determine who you are. Just because you are part of a certain group or not, doesn't make you good or bad. I've known church people that have made some of the worst transgression. I know people who have never set foot in a church and they are some of the best people I know.

We are not defined by who others believe us to be, but by our actions daily. We are not who we want others to think we are, but who we are behind closed doors. I want my kids to see the same person, whether I am out in public or at home with them.

No matter how I look, no matter who I "appear" to be, there is only one true self. The person that I am when the lights are turned down, and its quite in the house and I hear my heart beating the rhythm it was made for. That's who I want to be.

With love,


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