“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”

Do you see a vase or two faces? Answer depends on your opinion and perspective. Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com
Do you see a vase or two faces? Answer depends on your perspective. What is your opinion? Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Philosiblog discusses this quote from the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius:

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact.

Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.

Philosiblog ponders the quote in the context of personal relationships. (Check out the link above.) Everything a person tells you is filtered by their worldview and their perspective of what they discuss. Likewise, you filter their comments based on your worldview and your perspective of what they said. You filter everything you see through your perspective.

(Cross post from my other blog, Outrun Change.)

Therein lies room for severe misunderstandings. Unless you are humble enough to consider in the midst of a disagreement that maybe you misunderstood or are willing to revisit what you thought you heard, you are running a high risk of continued conflict.

Being willing to back off and listen in more depth to what a person says and being willing to apologize when you’re wrong is important to maintaining relationships.

The article points out failing to revisit what you thought was said or what you thought you saw can be corrosive to relationships.

Refusing to apologize when you  misunderstood can be the death of a friendship.

Where else does this apply?

The same concept applies everywhere in life.

It applies heavily in the political realm, which I will not discuss.

It applies to all the media we consume whether it is allegedly straight news, blatantly slanted opinion pieces, agenda laden documentaries or supposedly non-agenda movies.

Opinion shapes everything that was said and how we hear every word. Perspective controls what visuals are shown and how we perceive the visuals.

The mere angle of a camera can radically change the apparent story. Remember that every single item in a movie, down to the color & placement of food on a plate and the way someone is wearing each article of clothing, was put in place intentionally as part of the effort to tell a story. Remember that every fraction of a second of video in a news report was edited in the extreme, down to the exact syllables included in a person’s comment.

Oh, the comment applies to those scientists or nutritionists or medical experts telling us the absolute, indisputable fact of some issue or another. Keep that quote in mind as you read reports one week proving coffee/tea/vitamins will prevent cancer and reports the next week saying they will cause cancer. Each of those reports reflect the newly developed opinion of one researcher on one particular day. An evidence supported and well-reasoned conclusion, yet still an opinion.

It applies in the business world as well.

As a financial auditor I am always trying to make sure that the financial story my clients are telling is reasonably consistent with what actually happened. That requires an intentional attitude of trying to understand the reality of what I read and hear.

Being an auditor requires trying really hard to figure out the underlying substance of what someone said or what was read. I stand ready to change my understanding with each new tidbit learned.

In fact I find myself frequently bringing my professional mindset of trying to understand what is behind the surface conversation into other areas of my life. I frequently adjust my understanding of situations based on new information. As a leader in my local church, I have learned through extensive experience that there is usually a lot more going on in a situation than what people say or what is visible.

We would do well to constantly keep in mind advice from 1900 years ago that:

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact.

Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.

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