Thursday, June 20, 2013

Different Angles

Eyewitness accounts are only as reliable as the witnesses. It's a lesson I learned long ago in Reporting II at Kansas State University. Our class instructor was Bill Brown, who was director of student publications at K-State. During one of our first classes, he had a couple of people come into the room. I don't even remember what they did. But, after they left, we were supposed to write an account of their time in the room.

As I recall, the stories from this roomful of reporter-wanna-bes were similar. But there were some differences. We were training to be observers of human life and behavior, and yet, we had a lot to learn. It was a powerful lesson that I remembered as I wrote stories for The Collegian while at K-State and later took a job at The Hutchinson News

Mr. Brown had come to K-State after serving as editor and publisher of The Garden City Telegram. While he was there, two ex-convicts brutally murdered four members of the Herb Clutter family. Long before 24-hour news cycles and the internet, Brown witnessed how eyewitness accounts are colored by our own points of reference. National media saw the killings differently than homegrown journalists.

It's not only a lesson for journalists. It's a lesson for life. Our perceptions are colored by our own experiences.
Literally, no man ever sees himself as others see him. No photograph or reflection ever gives us the same slant on ourselves that others see. It has often been proved on the witness stand that no two people ever see the same accident precisely the same way. We see through different eyes and from different angles. But if we could see things as other people see them, we could come closer to knowing why they do what they do and why they say what they say. 
Richard L. Evans

We may see the same scene. We may experience the same event. But we see it through a different filter than the person sitting right next to us.
When we look at the big picture, we may see things one way.
When you look at an alfalfa field from a distance, you don't see the details in the beautiful purple blooms.
When we look more closely, our perception may shift, and we often see new details.We may see things as our neighbor sees them. Or, at least, we might consider their viewpoint.
It's not just a lesson for a neophyte reporter. It's something I should remember each and every day. 

I'm an adult Sunday School teacher at our church. For the past several weeks, Pastor Amy has been doing a series on the Sermon on the Mount. This coming Sunday, the Scripture is Matthew 7: 1-6, and her sermon topic is "Judging Logs and Splinters."
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? Matthew 7: 3

Our Sunday School hour follows the church service, so we continue the discussion, based on the Scripture lesson. One of the books I've been reading as I prepare for this Sunday's Sunday School class is When Christians Get It Wrong by Adam Hamilton, pastor of the Church of the Resurrection. 
Jesus commands us not to judge, warns us against hypocrisy, and calls us to love all - both our neighbors and those with whom we do not see eye to eye. When we get it right, others see the fruit of the Spirit in our lives - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5: 22-23) and are drawn to our faith. 
Adam Hamilton
It's a worthy challenge, isn't it? It takes a big pair of tweezers to pull that log out of my own eye. Thankfully, Christ took on the wood of the cross and forgives me when I fail, time and time again.


  1. Just what I needed this morning. Thank you so much! Blessings on your day!

    1. Thanks for stopping by and for taking time to leave a comment!

  2. This wasa well-thought-out post and one I'll think about today.

    1. Thanks, Mary Ann! Always great to hear from you!

  3. As a trial attorney I appreciate what you are saying. As a writer I also know that words do not always communicate what the writer, or speaker, thinks he or she has said. Each of us brings our personal experiences to the meaning we place on each word. What we see and what we hear/read can never be absolutely the same. We do our best, but we must be patient and understanding...

    1. I also find that to be true. I may read something one day, and one thing comes to the forefront. The next day, it's something totally different. I guess that's what makes human interaction so challenging at times. Thanks for taking time to comment!