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Hi my name is Dean Smith and in this podcast I want to talk about Breaking Perception’s Power or changing your perception of you.
I was reading about a few interesting psychological studies that revealed the powerful hold that negative perceptions can have on people. It can be so strong that it even negatively impacts how well you can do things.
The studies involved a 3-D image composed of several interlocking squares. This 3-D image portrayed on a computer screen could be rotated around so you could see the back and front of it. It could be flipped vertically and horizontally and basically twisted any way you wanted.
The test was simple. People were given this image in different states and then told to return them back to its original form.
Researchers have used these images to conduct studies on how people’s negative perceptions of themselves affected how quickly they were able to complete this challenge.
Of course, people who lack confidence are continually questioning their decisions and second guessing themselves when they do.
But what is also curious is these studies showed that women tended to perform this task slower than men, and researchers believe that the reason for this is the general societal perception that women do poorer at math and spatial tests than men.
In other words, a woman’s preconceived idea of herself affected her ability to complete this challenge.
Surveys have shown that nearly half of women believe their gender is poorer at math than men.
This perception showed up when women were told beforehand that this was a mathematical/spatial test because they did poorer than women who weren’t told this.
But despite the general perception that women are poorer at math than men, it is all in people’s head because, the facts tell a different story. In high school boys and girls score equally well in math, in fact girls may score a tad bit higher. However, when they leave high school, that all changes. The careers involving math and the sciences tend to be dominated by men, while women tend to pursue careers involving people, teaching and nursing.
Women can be good architects, but often choose not to simply because they are not interested in those types of fields.
It is interest not ability that affects these decisions.
Nevertheless, the perception remains that women are poorer at math.
In fact, this perception is so strong that in one study when women were required to identify themselves as a female before starting the 3-D test, they did poorer than women who were asked to identify themselves in a non gender way such as using the term student.
But the same thing applied to men. One study revealed that when men were told that women did better on this test than males, the men did poorer than those who weren’t told that.
The same, of course, applied to women. When they were told that men scored better, these women performed poorer than women who weren’t told this.
These tests revealed that a person’s perception or inner confidence plays a huge role in how well people are able to perform certain tasks.
These tests also showed that a person’s perception of themselves was impacted not only by societal beliefs, but also by what was said to them before taking the test.
Unfortunately many struggle with false perceptions about themselves and psychologists even have a phrase to describe this condition “Imposter Syndrome.”
This refers to a person’s inability to acknowledge in their own God-given abilities and self-worth which prevents them from pursuing jobs and other opportunities that they are completely capable of doing, because they don’t think they can.
This condition has often been described as a universal fear of themselves.
Now I believe many Christians are walking around with “imposter syndrome” because we have a negative perception of ourselves and I believe this is holding us back from accomplishing things that God has for us to do.
And I think the author of Hebrews actually hints at this when he writes:
35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise …
38 Now the just shall live by faith;But if anyone draws back,My soul has no pleasure in him.” (Hebrews 10:35, 36, 38)
In verse 35, we are told not to cast away or throw away our confidence. Notice how the writer says that it is only you who can throw away your confidence. No one else can do it. Sure people can say negative things about you, but it is only when you agree with them that you throw away your confidence.
The Greek word translated confidence is parresia — which literally means boldness, courage, outspokenness, freedom of action. It refers to having the confidence to speak your mind and the confidence to take risks and boldly go out an accomplish things.
When you are in a meeting are the kind of person who hides in a corner and says nothing. If so, you may need to ask yourself, have I thrown away my confidence?
So is this confidence talking about our belief in God? Maybe to some extent, but I am convinced that it is talking more about your confidence in who you are in God.
In verse 38, the writer adds that people lacking confidence have a tendency to draw back. They may even start out thinking, I can do this, but then doubts start creeping into their mind, and they pull back because they don’t think they are good enough. Now they may couch it in different ways. They may simple say they are no longer interested or use the tried and true Christian excuse that they don’t believe it is God’s will, when in fact it is their own inner fears and lack of confidence that is driving the decision.
But notice how this contrasts with a person who has confidence. In verse 35, the writer says a person who has confidence also has endurance. This is because people who have confidence are able to push through trials and adversity that often includes failure and defeat.
Their confidence or perception of themselves is not not defined by how well they are doing, but it is based on their inner conviction or confidence of who they are in God.
Failure is a part of life. Failure does not define us, it is how we respond to failure that does.
Again, we need to understand that this doubt and unbelief is not necessarily about God, but rather about ourselves and doubts that God will use us.
In Ephesians, the Apostle Paul says:
10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
In this verse, believers are described as God’s workmanship or as others translations suggest God’s masterpiece. Workmanship is the Greek word poiema, from which we get the English word poem.
God is not involved in mass production, each of us is an original creation.
God has created a multi-stanza epic poem powerfully describing who you are in Christ. But it doesn’t stop there, God has also created works, thing for you do. God has plan for your life and if we read this verse right, the word beforehand tells us that God’s plan for you was developed long before you were even saved.
In Jeremiah 1:5, we read that God knew Jeremiah before he was born and appointed Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations while in his mother’s womb. In Galatians 1:5, the Apostle Paul said that God had set him aside for service in his mother’s womb. He even implies that this is when he was called to be an apostle to the gentiles.
Now this is a process. This didn’t happen immediately. In fact, prior to becoming the apostle to the gentiles, Paul was arresting Christians and even participated in the murder of Stephen, the church’s first martyr.
God has a plan for you, but do you really believe that. I mean we can theologically believe that God will heal the sick, but do you believe that God will use you to heal the sick.
Do you believe that God has a plan for your life?
There are many things that affect our perception of who we are in God, but I think today one of the biggest challenges Christians are facing is a societal push back on believers largely from the secular left.
In the US, there has been a huge uproar over President Trump’s appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. She is a charismatic catholic and I have seen people publicly stating that Catholics and Christians should not appointed to the Supreme Court.
Why are believers less human?
In a previous podcast, I spoke about a New York Time’s article that blamed evangelicals for the coronavirus pandemic. Its title has since been changed, but it was originally called “The Road to the Coronavirus was paved by Evangelicals.”
That gives you a hint on the main message of the article, in one of the largest news papers in America.
It’s a bit shocking how much has changed in society in the matter of a few years.
And negative cultural perceptions or beliefs can have an adverse effect on people as we saw in the 3-D tests.
With these negative comments about Christianity surfacing in the mainstream media, it makes me wonder if this is having a similar damaging impact on how Christians think about themselves? One, that we may not even be aware of.
The second thing that impacts us are the words that people say. It’s not a general cultural pressure, it’s more personal because it is specifically targeted at you.
People can be negatively impacted by simply having a person say someone else is better.
When Christ ministered on earth, He was absolutely confident of His position in God. He had to be because in Mark 3:21, we are told that Christ’s family, including his own mother and brothers, wanted to put Jesus away because they thought the Lord was crazy. Then in the very same chapter, we see societal pressure condemning Jesus as the religious who were also the political leaders of the day claimed Jesus was demon possessed.
Jesus had to fight through these personal attacks. He had to choose not to listen to these voices. He had to choose not to cast away His confidence.
He had to choose to believe what God said about Him at his baptism — This is my beloved Son.
I don’t know what your situation is, but the first step in dealing with this problem is admitting you have one.
Then secondly you have shut your ears to what the world is saying and start believing what the Bible says about you.
The Bible says you are a New Creation. You are God’s masterpiece. You are a royal priest. You are a temple of God.
Now start believing believing who you already are in Christ.