Perspective: Gold or Dirt?

When you look at your surrounding, what do you see? Do you see the nature or the man-made establishments? Do you see the glimmering moonlight or the muddy roads?

When you look at people, do you see their strengths or their weaknesses; their potential or their limitations? When you look in the mirror, do you see someone who is so loved by the God of the universe or someone who is so despised and hated by his enemies?

Every time you open your eyes, what do you see, beauty or madness?

The answers to those questions come from your own perspective…from your paradigm.

Our mango tree that was split in two by a typhoon.

When I walked outside my unit just after one strong typhoon, I immediately saw the damaged it left in our surrounding. But after few more minutes of strolling, I started to see beauty. After all, typhoons are not as tyrannical as it always appears. Although sometimes it really is—as some may strongly argue. Yet ultimately, what it brings us depends entirely on our perspective.

Broken yet beautiful

John C. Maxwell and Stephen Covey are both convincing in their…perspective about perspective. They both imply to us that the way we see things is sometimes or maybe always better than what things really are.

Some may see a half-full bucket of water, while others may see the same bucket as half-empty. Some see problems in every opportunity; some see opportunities in every problem. Some immediately see the positive potential of others; while others see the imperfections. The difference lies in their attitude. But their attitude lies on their paradigms.

Stephen Covey, in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People says it clear as he explains in chapter Inside-Out that, “Paradigms are powerful because they create the lens through which we see the world.”

In a noticeable parallel, John C. Maxwell, as he devotes one whole chapter—the very first chapter—in his book Winning With People that, “Who we are determines how we see others.”

I believe in both of them. They are perfectly reasonable. We are the only one responsible for our assumptions. If I constantly assume that a person cannot be trusted regardless of that person’s track record and regardless of the circumstances, then maybe I am the one who cannot be trusted. If I always see the limitations of others, then maybe that very thinking is the one that escalates my own limitations.

When a student confided me about his prejudice to other students I told him to be careful in how he looks at others. Then I shared to him the difference between the vagrant and the gold miner.

Wherever the vagrant goes, he’s quick to notice trashes, left-over foods, wrecks, and other useless equipment in the streets that have been abandoned. Everyday he’s quick to notice dirt. Why? Because he is conditioned to see things that way.

The miner on the other hand, when he climbs down the dark tunnel under the mountain with his equipment, he is quick to notice the presence of gold that camouflage to the rocks. Unlike the vagrant, the miner has conditioned his eyes to quickly notice the presence of gold, not dirt.

Then I told the student, “whatever you see in other people, you see it because you are conditioned to see it. Your conditioning is a product of your experiences, of the influences of your parents and friends, and other people…and most specially, of your own reflections.”

Every person has dirt in their being that is easily seen by others. Yet, every person has gold also in them that should be noticeable also to others.

Now whether you see the dirt in others or the gold in them, depends strongly from the way you have been conditioned to see others. Ask yourself, do you see others’ flaws very quickly? Or do you see their good heart instead?

Your judgement to others has nothing to do with them. It has everything to do with who you are and what you are conditioned to see: the dirt or the gold. No matter how you see others, it always reflects the way you have been conditioned to see your world. Your judgement to others maybe the judgement to you.

Before I let him go, I asked the student, “Do you want to be a vagrant or a miner? Do you want to always see the dirt or the gold in others?” You can choose. “Conditioning” is temporary. Even if you have been conditioned to see the ‘dirt in others’ in the past, you can still change that by conditioning yourself to see the ‘gold in others’ now. That’s the good news!

Back to me…

It maybe not sound comforting, but it remains true: my own prejudice to others, my complains and criticism to others, my contempt and condemnation to them—all of those pictures I see in other people might be the very things that dominate my heart. And what’s worse is that I am not aware of it.

Does that mean that every time I am irritated with the arrogance of others I am actually irritated with my own arrogance, it’s just that I don’t see it?

Does that also mean that whenever I struggle to forgive others of what they’ve done to me has everything to do with a distorted lens of my own paradigm? Is that struggle a result of my internal lens poorly focused?

Remember, we seldom see the lens. We see everything else through them.

Self awareness is a helpful habit.

Focus: The Center of Your Life

Hello Karen!

This is a reply to your posted question in my last article, Insulted. Thanks for taking time to digest the message, and for asking—now we both have a great opportunity to grow in our understanding of this concept!

Does focus fall under the ability to control emotion? It might lead to, yes, but the ability to regulate the emotion, I think, falls under “flexibility.” So what’s the difference between focus and flexibility? Let me begin with focus. We will deal with flexibility on my next post

In Insulted, I was discussing about the mindset of a person, the inner eyes, the inner vision. Everybody has a focus—a center that controls everything else in his life. This is where you pay attention to most of the time…most of the situations. Your focus is the center of your life. Whatever you put in that center will be the source of your judgement, of your feelings, of your chosen actions. So that basically implies that whatever is in the center of your life will be in constant command of your life. It can command your every feelings and your every decision, and therefore is your master—the captain of your life.

Some people put themselves (their own self) in their center or focus. Some people put their religion on their center; some, their education or achievements; some, their physical beauty or appearance; some their reputation (yes, even if their reputation is not congruent with who they really are); some their girlfriend or boyfriend; others put money in their center; others, sex.

However, you have to know that you have the ultimate control on what you want to put in the center of your life. You have a choice. You have a free will. You can put material things in the center of your life—that means your decisions are mostly dictated by the command of those material things that you desire. You can make your parents your focus. Whatever your parents desire for you, you simply follow even if those desires are against your will and passion. You can also put your enemies into your center. That means whatever you do or plan or say, you always think about your enemy—about revenge, about hurting him, about getting even. And when you do that, that means that your enemy is in command of your life—you are his slave. He is in-charge of your emotion. He rules over you.

That’s how powerful your focus is!

Now let me recap. Every one of us has our own focus—that’s the center of our life. Whatever that focus is, will be our master and we become enslaved by it. However, we can freely chose what we want to be in our focus. We can choose our master. It’s a free choice for everyone. That’s where the words of Sheila (sheila4hastenhome) in her reply gives a very profound insight: if we put Jesus Christ on the center of our life then “our defenses will tend to build up, rather than tear down.” We will not be threatened because whatever we do, whatever we think, whatever we say, we are doing it for the glory of Jesus Christ, and not for our own gratification.

When I mentioned in INSULTED that we should be focusing on the “universal truths or principles” in life, I was referring to the principles of Jesus—principles of honesty, integrity, respect, obedience, humility, love, sacrifice, and many other principles. Because I believe that Jesus Christ is the source of all moral principles that we know. And those principles are universal, timeless, and obvious. You don’t need to be a genius to learn those principles. You just need to be open-minded and willing to see the unseen.

Thanks for asking Karen! I hope I’m helping here.

Now we can tackle flexibility in the next post.


The concept is inspired by authors Stephen Covey (7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Principle-Centered Leadership) and Philip Yancey (Reaching for the Invisible God—Rosetta Stone).

Scarcity Mentality

Why do we sometimes assume that what we need are scarce?

Inside the Minds

Some people think mostly about concrete things like cars, houses, computer gadgets, guns, bikes, cellphones and celebrities; some think mostly about abstract ideas such as love and hate, honesty, peace, communication, relationships, heart and soul, beliefs, eras, symbols, and personalities.

What’s the difference? Abstract ideas represent matters that cannot be observed but only imagined. Concrete things represent matters that can be observed so we don’t need to imagine.

This is not to say that concrete people can’t think about abstract ideas and abstract people can’t think about concrete things. We can do both. It’s just that we don’t give them equal emphasis in our minds. Some people predominantly think more about concrete things while others (like me) are mostly attracted to abstract ideas.

Outside, In the Real World

How about in the physical world outside our minds? Can we really distinguish the abstract from the concrete? Concrete things are subject to mathematical laws and can be counted, divided and joined. They can be measured. But how about abstract matters? Can we measure love or integrity or joy or peace?

Imagine two children competing for one apple. They have only limited options: either only one of them will have the whole apple; or they have to share two halves of the apple—each one has his half; or none of them will get the apple.

People always compete for concrete things. They want to have the biggest houses, the fastest cars, the most powerful computers, the best cameras. Ninety percent of the families of a certain country maybe competing for the amount of money equivalent to the 10% available in their country. On the other hand, the 10% of the population who are sharing the 90% of all available resources in their country are also competing with one another.

But what if the children are competing for the love of their mother? What if the students are competing for “the number one” in class? What if some ladies are competing for “the crown” of being the most beautiful woman in their place?

Isn’t it that love, talent, intelligence, and beauty are among the abstract things in life? If a country has scarcity of water or crops or trees that bear fruits, that’s natural. But if there is scarcity of love and respect in a particular place, I don’t think that’s natural. That is the choice of the people living in that place to make love scarce, or to make peace nonexistent.

What‘s the difference again? Concrete things maybe plenty or scarce. Things that are scarce sometimes push us to compete. On the other hand, I don’t think abstract ideas like talents, peace or communication can be naturally scarce—they are always plenty. So it is better to cooperate than compete—to collaborate than to rival.

Dangerous Effect

When we treat beauty, intelligence, love, cooperation, leadership, and other abstract concepts as concrete matters, and always compete as if these matters are scarce, then perhaps we have scarcity mentality.

Sometimes, competing is natural, specially when we do it for fun (like in sports and recreation); sometimes we compete to survive. Yet most daily activities require cooperation not competition. So when we extend the attitude of “always competing” in our daily normal life at home or in the office…and apply it with abstract matters, then maybe we are exaggerating. When we compete about who’s the most talented, or the most beautiful, or even the most intelligent…when we become too accustomed to “always compete,” we better ask ourselves why. Perhaps we are having scarcity mentality…and it’s leading us into getting irrationally greedy.