What Are You Looking At?

words by: Ferree Hardy

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Have you seen anyone walking around in a gorilla costume lately?

Would you have noticed?

I thought I would have noticed, but I didn’t! I recently took a 6-week course called “Relational Wisdom,” taught by a long-time friend of mine, Patti Damiani. She lives in Traverse City, Michigan now, but distance didn’t matter; it was online learning. She showed the class a video clip of two teams playing basketball. We were told to watch the team in the white shirts and count how many times they passed the ball to each other in only a minute or so. 

After we were done watching, the question was asked, “Did you notice the gorilla?” 

“A gorilla?” was my shocked reply. I had been so busy counting the ball passes that I didn’t see the gorilla! I couldn’t believe there really was a gorilla!

Patti played the video again. There it was—a big fat gorilla (well, actually someone in a big, fat gorilla costume), walking between the players on the basketball floor. My other classmates didn’t notice it either. Patti explained that we’d just experienced “Selective Perception.” We were so focused on watching the ball that we missed the gorilla.

This reminded me of something I’d heard at Widows Journey Retreat earlier this year. Gayle Roper spoke of how sometimes a person can become so focused on her grief and old memories that she loses sight of the life currently going on around her. Picture someone trying to walk forward when they keep looking behind them.

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sometimes a [widow] can become so focused on her grief and old memories that she loses sight of the life currently going on around her.

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There are other examples of this, too, not only in grief. Do you remember the Pharisees in the Bible? Jesus called them hypocrites because they saw splinters in other people’s eyes but not the log that was figuratively stuck in their own; they liked to point out other people’s sin, not realizing or admitting their own. The Pharisees selective perception blocked them from seeing their own sin. 

It’s like a filter we aren’t really aware of; we naturally favor certain things and avoid others, sometimes to the point of not even seeing what we don’t want to see because it makes us uncomfortable. We see this happen when young people (and us old ones, too!) fall in love. “What does she see in him?” we wonder. “What does he see in her?” In these cases, selective perception can be a good thing! Without it, I doubt that anyone could fall in love with some of us! 

I’ve also noticed selective perception on another level—as a widow. This was when people would approach me with that question, “How are you?” Certain folks would start nodding their heads before I had even answered. “Yes, yes, that’s good! I’m so glad you’re fine,” they’d say and nod before I had a chance to tell them, “No, I’m not fine, and I don’t know if I will ever be fine again.” But those words never fell from my lips…

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Ferree Hardy has helped thousands of widows through her book, “Postcards from the Widows’ Path,” small groups, speaking, and personal coaching, but touching one life at a time is what matters most to her. She holds a BA from Moody Bible Institute, and was a pastor’s wife in Ohio for over twenty years before her first husband died. She’s happily remarried now, and her readers know that moving seems to have become a hobby for her. But she also enjoys backyard chickens, aims to read fifty books a year, and loves to bake. Learn more by visiting her blog.

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