I have always been fascinated by perspective. The fact that every person sees the world through their own positively intrigues me. The fact that mine changes once, twice, or even a handful of times a day puzzles me. Some might say that you need to stick to your guns at all costs, or that it's weak to let your way of thinking be altered by another's. But I say that only the strongest-minded people are aware enough of their own thinking to realize that sometimes there are lies and misconceptions braided into it.
Last night, our friends came over for dinner and were telling us all about their recent missions trip to Guatemala. From what I gathered from our conversation, the culture in Guatemala is very different from ours in the United States. For starters, they do not put many resources into education for girls, because they see it as a waste of time and money. They do not have houses like ours, equipped with every comfortable thing we could desire. Many never leave their country because of governmental or monetary restrictions, but instead stay in the same town their entire lives.
Of course, my first thoughts went something like this: No education for girls? Those nuts are crazy! Smart and driven girls are huge assets to a community. Girl power, baby! And, they live in huts with no windows or doors, just open holes? I could never do that. How are they protected from rain, and all those Guatemalan creepy crawlies? And never being able to leave the country? Guatemala sounds more like a prison.
But - and this is a huge, resounding but - it turns out that the same people I pitied are actually ripe with joy. Our friends said that a deep contentment was evident in the majority of the people they met; while they had few possessions, they showed great thankfulness. Talking with them made me start to wonder. Which parts of our thinking are shaped by the area we grow up in? The people we hang around? The jobs that we complete? And, just because they are ours... are they right? And, if we aren't filled with joy, what good are our fancy pantsy perspectives, anyway?
I took a school law course last spring as part of my Master's program. Sometimes we would do mock debates, pretending we were lawyers in the cases we were studying. Oh, I loved the arguments, pretending there was a jury I needed to convince one way or the other. In fact, my mother always told me I would make a great lawyer, probably because she hoped I would get paid to do what I do so well - argue. But when it came time for the judge (our professor, who enjoyed whacking his gavel on the table when things got too heated) to make a decision, I always felt like full justice wasn't served. Because while one side won, the other lost. It was so black and white. And I just don't think life is usually that way.
Now, I do think there is a difference between seeking to understand different perspectives, and being wishy washy. In fact, I distrust wishy washy people because I never know where they stand. At some point in our lives, we all need to decide which values we know in our deep parts to be true. Otherwise, we would be a mess, wandering through a life devoid of sense or meaning. One of my black and whites is Jesus. I believe what I read in the Bible, about him and everything else. I also believe that if you want to wear white before Memorial Day, you should do it. And if I were on death row, Kraft macaroni and cheese with hotdogs would definitely be my last meal. These things are just true.
But what I'm trying to say is this: there are as many perspectives in the world as there are people. If we can put down the idea that every thought that goes through our head is TRUTH, and that perhaps there are other ways of thinking and living that are also good or right, perhaps we could be more compassionate people. And, whether you see the world in black, white, or gray, I can't help but believe that there is a place for compassion in everyone's perspective.