We ALL have perceptions. Perceptions are impacted by things we may have already learned through stereotypes and past experiences. Perceptions affect our thoughts and they occur BEFORE judgment. Judgment is the conclusion. The judgment we make or don’t make impacts our ACTIONS.
Recently, I was at Walmart. As usual, there was only a couple of cashiers open. As I got in line behind a woman, I noticed that she had a shopping cart FULL of items. She also had a handful of coupons. Oh yes, and she had three children with her that she was wrestling with. Quickly a perception started to form. My perception led to unhappy thoughts. I knew that this was going to take a long time!
As I stood in line…looking and hoping to see another line I could get in to…starting to feel anxious about all the things I needed to be doing…one of the children falls over on the floor and bonks her head…now the mother is trying to console the child…now the cashier is getting frustrated because all the bags are full and there is no where left to put the groceries…it is chaos!
As I stood there, thinking about how I wished I were in a different line (which was not an option anyway), I realized that maybe I could do something to help the situation. Maybe I should put aside my unrighteous thoughts and help. I realized that I had the ability to make this situation better.
At first I was afraid that she would think I was trying to hurry her. Well, wasn’t I? Initially, that was my thought, but then I changed my thoughts. When I changed my thoughts, it changed my actions.
I walked forward to help. I showed this woman compassion, reassured her that I wanted to help and started to put the bags in the cart. Then I started to help with the children. Amazing things transpired. The more I helped the happier I felt. I actually was happy!
A stressful situation was changed. This woman hugged me and thanked me for my help. She told me that just a couple of weeks ago, she was checking out and the woman behind her was getting really impatient. Evidently, the woman was very irritated that she had coupons. She said the woman got angry with her and said, “If all you are trying to do is save a dollar, I will give you a dollar!”
As she relayed this story to me, it really made me think. Our thoughts and then actions directly impact the outcome. I am glad that we had a great outcome! We all have perceptions/thoughts that may or may not be accurate. Having the thought is not the problem, it is the action that comes as a result of the thought. We have the power to change our thoughts and the power to act appropriately!
I think that Heavenly Father has a lot for me to learn at Walmart! Just last week, I was standing in line again. I, of course, was in a hurry. The woman in front of me was chatting on her iPhone while the cashier was checking her out. I noticed that she was using government assistance to get her items. I am ashamed to say my first thought when I noticed this was, “great she is getting government assistance, but she can still afford an iPhone.”
Of course, it was not going to be a simple transaction. When she realized she did not have enough money to pay for her items she started to return them to the cashier. My thoughts started to change…to one of compassion…kindness…I had this overwhelming feeling that I needed to help her. At first I ignored it. Would she feel embarrassed if I tried to help her? I continued to ignore the feeling, but it would not go away. So, I finally listened.
After this woman had put back several of her clothing items, she started to put back her bread. I stepped forward and told her to put it back. I told her I wanted to pay for the remaining items. She looked at me with shock. She told me it was not necessary, but I told her that I wanted to do it.
This woman, whom I don’t know and will probably never see again, gave me a huge hug and thanked me profoundly. I felt so amazingly happy! I probably felt better than she did.
It wasn’t about the thanks I received. It was about the feelings of empowerment I received as I learned that I can change my thoughts and choose not to judge others. I can act appropriately!
To have charity we must act first. I love Dallin H.Oaks explanation of charity, “The reason charity never fails and the reason charity is greater than even the most significant acts of goodness he cited is that charity, “the pure love of Christ”, is not an act but a condition or state of being. Charity is attained through a succession of acts that result in a conversion. Charity is something one becomes. Thus, as Moroni declared, “except men shall have charity they cannot inherit” the place prepared for them in the mansions of the Father.”-The Challenge to Become, Ensign, October 2000.
It is through our actions that we become charitable. Our thoughts lead to our actions. As I mentioned earlier, is not the initial thoughts we have that are the problem it is how we develop those thoughts and then act.
In a talk about the characteristics of Christ, David Bednar said, “It is interesting to me that one of the central elements of the word character is created by the letters A, C, and T. As we already have seen in the examples of Christ's character from the New Testament, the nature and consistency of how one acts reveals in a powerful way his or her true character. In the case of Christ, he is described as one ". . . who went about doing good" (Acts 10:38)...
I noted earlier in my remarks that the letters A, C, and T form a central component in the word character. Also noteworthy is the similarity between the words character and charity--as both words contain the letters C, H, A, and R. Etymologically there is no relationship between these two words. Nevertheless, I believe there are several conceptual connections that are important for us to consider and ponder.”-The Character of Christ, BYU Idaho, January 25, 2003.
There are times in our lives where we must make certain judgments. I have learned it is better to err on the side of caution! Perceptions quickly become judgments. If we are not careful, we can make unfair/unrighteous judgments and behave inappropriately toward other individuals. Change your thoughts! ACT wisely!
My husband was an amazing example of someone who was charitable. He did not pass judgments on others. He just loved...when I grow up I want to be just like him!
In this video clip, what were his perceptions? Only he (and God) knows. You can tell what his judgements were by his actions...