We’ve all had the experience of pointing a camera at a beautiful scene, only to be disappointed later that the image we’re left with looks nothing like the vista we hoped to capture. What makes the difference between a stunning, captivating photograph and a poor image? I would argue that the lens used to take the picture makes a big difference. We know, for example, that a basic lens without a zoom will capture a very different image than a fancy telephoto lens with lots of bells and whistles. A fish-eye lens will distort the image in a different way than a wide-angle lens. The lens can make or break a picture.
Much the same as using a camera lens to take a photograph, we all look at the world through our own unique frame of reference, capturing the surrounding world in snapshots which we use to interpret and remember the moments we experience. However, sometimes we forget that we are subjective and not objective observers of our world. We can easily change a camera lens to capture an image differently, but changing or even identifying the mental lens we use to view the world is much more difficult.
Your lens is specific and unique to you. You and a sibling may have grown up in the same house, with the same parents, and have similar ages and physical features. All of these things have helped to shape the lenses you look through. But even with all this in common, the way in which you view the world could be very different.
Everything we experience is interpreted through the lens we use. In this way, two people living through an identical situation can have completely different experiences. The same stimulus can be interpreted in very different ways by different people using different lenses. Therefore, I can never truly claim to understand how someone else feels. For example, applause will be interpreted differently by a person who is accustomed to success than it will be by someone who is accustomed to failure. An embrace is experienced very differently by a person whose dad hugged her as an attempt to make amends for the abuse he inflicted than it will be by the person whose father delivered a hug to express his unwavering love and affection. The same statement made by a politician will be interpreted differently by a politically conservative person than it will be by one who is politically liberal.
Awareness of the lens you use to experience life can offer profound freedom and insight into why you experience life the way that you do. Even better news: like camera lenses, our mental lens can be switched out for a better version, allowing us to capture better images of the one precious life we’ve been given to live.
What lenses are you using to experience your world? How could your life and relationships be made richer and more beautiful by gaining this awareness of perspective? How would your life change if you were able to see things differently?
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