Alright, I am a college student. I attend a very small private university (think 3A high school, then expel the football team and pep band – yeah, just like that). Since I began attending, my interpersonal relations have improved by leaps and bounds (my friends would agree that this is true, but I still have a long way to go) simply because I have been forced to interact with the same people everywhere I go on campus. I have to learn about these people and form opinions about these people. I have to listen to other people talk about these people. I engage in conversations about other people. Honestly, gossip runs rampant. In fact, the entire place is very much like a high school, except now the students are allowed to pretend they are grown-ups.
So, you ask, why am I going on and on about my university? Well, it is to help you, dear readers, understand the insightful brainstorm I had just last night. Read on and tell me that you agree with me.
I just finished reading The Ghosts of Ashbury High by Jaclyn Moriarty (yes, this is young adult fiction, but please keep reading before you write me off). I adore Moriarty’s books because she does not simply create characters and plots. She raises her characters as if they are her own children, and she delves deep into their personalities to see how they will affect the plot. Furthermore, I can always find my own fears, feelings, and habits in Moriarty’s characters. She makes you think about what you are reading. And last night, I was thinking about The Ghosts of Ashbury High. [Spoiler Alert: I will give you no spoilers. Read the book for yourself. You must.]
Jaclyn Moriarty tells the story of Ashbury High School’s current senior class from the perspective of all the main characters and many of the minor characters. Major events in the plot are often told three or four times by different participants. (Although, I assure you that it is in no way repetitious – like I said, J. M. makes you think. She doesn’t do it for you.) As I was reading, I realized that the story had so much more depth and richness because of this. I could see all sides of the story, as it were. And now, you are asking me how this connects to all the random people at my tiny university, well, listen up because here is where my brainstorm kicked in.
I decided that Jaclyn Moriarty had written a 3-D book. I was learning all the dimensions of the story from multiple sources – students, teachers and administrators, even historical occurrences. Then, I thought, people are three dimensional just like this book. I don’t mean in the physical sense (because that is obvious), but in the relational sense. Our perception or understanding of a person should be three dimensional.
You see, there are three perspectives that can tell the story of one person.
- A person understands himself. His understanding of himself determines how he presents himself to other people.
- That presentation determines how other people understand him and how they present him to society.
- Society is made up of individuals who will form an understanding of him based on (1) how he presents himself and (2) how others present him.
Therefore, when I meet a new person, he has an opinion of himself, other people have an opinion of him, and I must now form an opinion of him, and all of this develops a 3-D understanding of that new person. This can be really easy in a gossip-y place like my university, but gossip can also make it really hard. How many times have you formed an opinion of someone based solely on what other people say? Have you disregarded what other people say about someone? Have you taken the time to learn what a person knows of himself?
A person is not made only of what he believes himself to be. The whole world has the ability to mold and warp him (his personality and reputation) in any way. I guess this is why the Bible talks so much about God being a potter, and why it tells us we are His clay. We are changed and molded all our lives because that is God’s plan. (Isaiah 29:16, Isaiah 64:8, Jeremiah 18:1-10, Romans 9:21) The world may change our reputation, but God changes our hearts. And that is more important. If you like (and I do), we could say that God provides the fourth dimension to the world’s understanding of a person.
So, I’ll leave you with this: Do you allow people the honor of understanding them from all dimensions? Or do you heed only the gossip? Furthermore, do you believe that no matter what the world says about you, God has the final say? I struggle with this on a daily basis, but I can still rely on the fact that He loves me, and He is molding me into an even better pot every day.