Devotional, Perception-Checking: When All Is Not as It Appears, by Donna Elkins

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Perception-Checking:  When All Is Not as It Appears

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.  Proverbs 14: 12 (NIV)

Have you ever looked at a 3D poster with hidden images (often called stereogram images)? You must get close, un-focus your eyes, and look for the hidden shape behind the easily visible image. Or have you ever seen the picture of the old woman’s face and the young woman’s head, depending how you focus on it? You can look at all kinds of these types of optical illusions and perception shifting pictures at Optical Illusions.[1] What these images reinforce is that our sense of sight is misleading at times. Sometimes we miss things right in front of us and focus on other things that might not be as important.

If you’ve ever read through the book of Judges in the Old Testament, you no doubt have been struck by how the Israelites are described as “doing what was right in their own eyes” (KJV, Judges 17:6 & Judges 21:25), which never ends well for them.  Based on our knowledge of how easily our eyes can mislead us, the problem becomes evident.  If we base our actions on our own faulty perceptions, we can quickly go down some wrong paths. And if our sense of sight is so easily misled, what about the information we take in through our other senses?

Since our perceptions can be faulty in so many ways, communication scholars have advocated for a process to stop and double-check our initial perceptions.[2] This perception-checking process consists of three steps:

  1. Describe behavior rather than jumping to conclusions about that behavior.
  2. Provide at least two different interpretations of the behavior.
  3. Request clarification about how to interpret the behavior.

Some examples of using perception-checking might be:

I missed you when you did not come to help me move this weekend.  Did you forget or decide you didn’t want to help? Why didn’t you show up?”

“My boss asked me to take on an expanded role at work. Would the extra money benefit my family or is time together more valuable for us now?  Rather than jumping to say “yes,” I will pray for clarification about God’s priority for us right now.”

The impact on relationships and the improved quality of our decisions and reactions are well worth slowing down to complete these checks. God wants to lead us into the best path but often we jump to conclusions or do what is right “in our own eyes” rather than stopping to see if our perceptions are accurate and we are following His will.

Reflection:  In what recent situation would stopping to do a perception check have helped you come to a better conclusion? How can you stop to check your perceptions with God’s truth when you are faced with a decision or disappointment?

Today’s Challenge:  List two decisions or conflicts you are facing or have faced recently.  Go back and perform a perception check on these situations and record whether your actions will change based on that check.

 Donna M. Elkins, Spalding University



[1] Liles, M. (2022, Jan. 1) 50 optical illusions that’ll blow your mind.  Retrieved from:

[2] Hansen, F., Resnick, H., & Galea, J. (2002).  Better listening: Paraphrasing and perception checking – A study of the effectiveness of multimedia skills training program.  Journal of Technology in Human Services, 20, 317-331.

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