Shifting Our Perception

Depending on our mindset, Mondays can be difficult mornings as we face the beginning of yet another week of work. This may involve facing a long to-do list, including some tasks we might not rather do, coming immediately on the heels of a weekend taste of rest and relaxation.

However, with some mental reframing, we might shift and say to ourselves with some authentic enthusiasm: “Today is a new day and the start of a new work week! This is a new opportunity for me to live my values and to put my mission into action!”

What might you need to move into such a mental-emotional space? Are there practices or habits that could help you to do so? Maybe meditation or prayer, walks outside, or seeking the support of a community of friends and colleagues?

As our Mission Mondays continue to follow Christians through their Lenten season, we might find some insight in the words of prophet Isaiah from the readings for this fifth and penultimate week of Lent. Isaiah invites the Hebrew people to change their mindset, to hearken no longer on the hardships of the past, and to recognize what God is doing anew in their presence: “Do you not perceive it?”[1]

How much of our mindset is the result of our perception or our ability to see and focus our attention on the emerging, possible good in our midst?

This week, we also read of Jesus’s often-quoted admonition to those condemning a woman: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”[2] Jesus is clearly seeing and focusing on something different than the mob of people set on violence.

Shifting our perception—whether to focus on the good and possible rather than what is troubling, or to set our minds and hearts toward forgiveness and compassion rather than judgment and condemnation—can be mightily difficult for most of us. Such a shift will probably not be achieved through our own will alone. The many ongoing daily challenges of life, added to the tragedies now being amplified in our world with the violent destruction and loss of life in Ukraine, can make it especially difficult to adopt a forward-looking hopeful frame of mind. Doing so may require a healthy dose of grace and some proverbial sunshine to emerge in our lives independent of our own efforts.

As Vincent de Paul would advise, we need to remain radically open to the experiences and people in our lives—to first perceive Providence at work, then to humbly and graciously receive the blessings and opportunities before us—so that we may be able to say, as the Psalmist does, “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.”[3]

  • What might help you this week to focus on the good that is possible for you to do and to experience, even amidst difficulty?
  • What holds you back from such openness?
  • When was there a moment in your life in which you embodied an open, positive mindset, and what were you doing—or what was occurring—at that time to make this possible? What might you glean from this experience to apply to your life today?

Reflection by: Mark Laboe, Associate Vice President, Division of Mission and Ministry

[1] Isaiah 43:19.

[2] John 8:7.

[3] Psalm 126:3.

2 thoughts on “Shifting Our Perception

  1. This is a truly beautiful and inspirational message that is not only written with compelling truth but presented with open-hearted compassion. Thank you! Realizing that we all have the capacity to shift our minds and hearts is empowering. Going within through meditation, prayer, or even just a simple question of where can I see the good – is truly enlivening!

  2. Hi Mark, Enjoyed reading your reflection and it reminded me of something I wrote to my department faculty earlier this year.

    At the beginning of every quarter I send a note to the faculty in my department. This is the note I sent back in January.

    Hello Department Friends:

    I like a lot of different types of music, but I especially love Broadway showtunes. I have been listening lately to La Cage Aux Folles, a musical from the early 1980s — found a CD of it at Half-Price Books for $3. What a steal of a deal. (Yes, I still have a CD player in my car. And a tape player.)

    There is a song in the show that seems appropriate as we say goodbye to one year and prepare for the next. We thought in 2021 we’d be looking at the pandemic in our rear view mirrors. But now, it appears some variants will be traveling into 2022 along with us. That is disheartening, but it won’t destroy our spirit.

    The pandemic was not the sum total of our whole year –though it certainly did its darndest to overshadow everything else. While we had challenges, more importantly—we had blessings, too. Take a few seconds, please, to read these lyrics:

    The best of times is now
    What’s left of summer
    But a faded rose?
    The best of times is now.
    As for tomorrow,
    Well, who knows, who knows, who knows?
    So hold this moment fast,
    And live and love
    As hard as you know how
    And make this moment last
    Because the best of times is now.

    If 2021 taught us anything, it’s that we don’t know what tomorrow holds. So we truly do need to hold close those special moments with our friends and family, and appreciate the blessings big and small.

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