I rummaged around in my purse, looking for my lip gloss. I wanted a specific one. The one I layer on to another specific one, Urban Decay’s Morning After. The second one I apply is in a long rectangular plastic tube. I have lots of lipsticks in all shapes and colors in my purse. When it comes to lipstick, I’m a marketer’s dream.
As I fumble along, grasping and then dropping the lipstick tubes and pens, the notebooks, receipts, something unfamiliar and tiny catches my attention. I was driving to church, running late, so my attention was more on the road than the contents of my purse. If I had discovered my lipstick however, that would require no focus. This is a routine and my procedure is as memorized as my drive to church.
I pulled up the tiny piece, angular but not uniform, cream colored, with a small hollowed out area, dark in color, and I said aloud, “Who’s tooth is this!?” I was alone in the car, so this was for no one’s benefit. For a split moment I couldn’t imagine why I would have one of the kids’ baby teeth in the bottom of my purse. They’re in college and I’ve had a few purses since they were babies. This would not be an item I would have transferred from one purse to another.
As I assessed the oncoming traffic, yielding to the yellow flashing light, I turn left. Rolling the mystery subject between my fingers, I realized that in my hand is not a baby’s tooth, but rather a broken popcorn kernel, SKINNY POP, I’m sure. It’s almost a vice, as is evidenced by it finding its way inside my purse. I take my familiar left into the church parking lot, with my mind still on this popcorn kernel, and it occurs to me again: perspective.
The topic of perspective is hot for me right now, constantly aware of its value. Shaunti Feldhahn tells us that kindness is the new super power. I listened to her book a few weeks ago and wrote a post about it. But if kindness is the new super power, then perspective is its mother. After all, it takes perspective to reconsider one’s kindness to others. And really, perspective is the magic key. It opens doors that expose a brilliant light, illuminating things beyond those that are staring us in the face.
My sister is 10 years younger than I am. When I was eighteen I left our foster home and she was left with our foster parents (who ultimately adopted her). Awhile after I’d left I discovered how unhappy her daily life had become. The messages she received within the home convinced her she was unimportant and incapable of much. She was ridiculed and picked on. She had no physical or mental disability, she was adequately compliant, was sweet in her nature, yet she had unexplainably become the whipping boy. To me she was beautiful and sparkly. I had spent most of my last 8 years caring for her. As if I were her mother, I confronted anyone I knew was responsible for hurting her. I tried my best to convince her of her worth. I recall distinctly at age twenty when I’d suddenly discovered what I believed would be the key to her better life. I was certain and did my best to convince her that if she were to stop comparing herself to others, she would see herself as I saw her. I didn’t know at the time what I was doing, but looking back I realize, I desperately wanted her to change her perspective.
That epiphany that I’d discovered didn’t magically change everything. For her, hardly anything changed. The influences within the home were greater than my influences. She believed what she was told, and the darkness that hung over her penetrated her innermost being and followed her while she lived in her home. She has done a lot of work as an adult addressing the consequences of those eighteen years. I understood the temptation to fall into the trap. I too had been given the same messages. A sense of value, love, and protection was far from what I felt when I went to bed or arose in the mornings. But somehow I was able to see beyond the lies that could have held me back and I was able to look forward to a truth that would be a guiding light to a better life. That’s not to say that I was over flowing with confidence. But I was using my magic key, and it was taking me somewhere.
It’s true that I am simplifying. For many of you I’m stating the obvious. But like we know that we should be kind, we don’t always perform at our best. And even though we understand that perspective is helpful, it’s not easy to execute these lessons in our own lives. We need a push. As I look back, navigating my life, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t understand the impact or consequences of my decisions when I made them. I haven’t been incredibly strategic in my life and I’ve made a lot of wrong turns. But my perspective key has helped right wrongs and opened new doors. In the midst of pain and disappointment or lack of skills or incompetence or betrayal, that light pointed to better things ahead. Maybe this is a push you need.
If you’re someone who is weary of another person advising you to change your perspective, or suggesting that your problems will disappear if only you look at them from a different angle, I understand. It’s especially difficult to hear such advice in the middle of suffering. There are a lot of places we land before we get to a place of suffering. But almost always, wherever we land, if we unlock the door with this magic key, and let the light shine beyond what is right before us, it’s very possible we’ll see something we didn’t expect, something different altogether. In so many cases, it’s that perspective that will make all the difference in your world.