Perspective. More and more I find this a defining word of my life. How do I gain perspective in how I see and hear and feel things? It’s one thing to sort out how I feel, how I think, about matters in my life, but what is the larger picture, what do I need to consider apart from my own feeling and thoughts? There is this tension I live with, on one hand as a Minister I am aware of pain, pain the hearts of the poor, pain in the hearts of the broken, of the dying, and on the other hand, my own needs, my own worries, my own feelings. I appreciate the need for all of us to be grounded in our own experience, to attend to our own care but I also know that when we focus all of our energy on ourselves we miss something. If I have a sense of perspective I can be attentive to me and attentive to the other, keeping both in balance.

Like anyone I get worked up when things don’t go my way. I can have that righteous sense of justice and fairness kick in when it seems like I am being taken advantage of. I tend to work hard and to try and do what I can to be helpful to others. It’s easy for me to being taken advantage of and when I have a sense that people are doing this I can be very upset and reluctant to stick it out with them. On the other hand because I have this default position of hard work and consideration I can miss entirely the value in silence or patience or letting things sit for a time. I tend to see inaction as a sign of indifference. Sometimes it is. And something it isn’t. That gestation period of inaction, of simply letting things be, can be a powerful means to bring forth healing and insight.

But that requires perspective. It takes perspective to see the big picture, how people and community work themselves out of crisis and brokenness and into peace and wholeness. Sometimes thought and action leads to that healing transition and something they get in the way. Sometimes silence and relief lead to new orientation and sometimes they are more indicative of a centre that starts and ends with me.

My tool to perspective is to watch how communities and individuals work. When I spot the challenge I try to be open to the various ways it is being addressed. I listen to the value of the theory, the value of the action, the value of the pastoral, the value of the silence, the value of the letting things be. I think it takes experimentation to know what truly is effective and transformation, which means being able to shift from one approach to another, even when one of those approaches is almost alien to our being. If I am with someone or some group and my “go to” approaches are failing to achieve any connection and effect I need to find the courage to try something outside my comfort zone and try that.

But knowing what works and what doesn’t requires perspective. It means moving out from my own small world and seeing and hearing more. One can be confident in one’s natural state and gift but one must also develop a knack for attempting to do things one does not normally do. The other day I was with a grieving family and everyone was talking. I just stopped, a sat still, looked at them all, and listened. Soon my lack of intervention was noted. Someone turned to me. I said, “Sometimes I just need to stop to gain a different perspective, to move to a different place and hear something, feel something, different. I just did that and you know what I felt/saw? I think we are now just reacting. We are flaying about. How about we go home and let this be and come back tomorrow and try again?” This is 180 degrees away from my true self. I had to force myself to say every word. But it was the right thing to do. Have I heard people use these words before as an excuse to put things off, to procrastinate? You bet! But in that case it was the right thing to do.

What approach we use, it all depends on our perspective.