3 Perceptions, 4 Skills
LinksHave you ever wondered why some people always seem to be sure that they are going to come out as a winner? While other people always have a new reason why life doesn't work? It's my business to study people. And it's been a particular passion of mine to understand myself - and my kids, and the other people I know, for many years now. I love being a winner, yet it has never come naturally for me. Why?

I was a small kid in elementary school. One of the smallest in my grade. I was used to not being able to hit the ball in baseball, and not being able to outrun the other kids in tag. But I was unprepared for the humiliation of the middle school years, when even some of the girls tried to beat me up. They could have done it too, but I knew how to run by then.

By the time I was twenty-two, I was as big and strong as the average guy my age. But inside my mind, I was still that little boy - always a loser, never strong enough for the man-sized jobs. This was a lie, but unfortunately what I believed effected how I lived. The lie, the false perception shaped my future negatively.

The problem in my life, at twenty-two, was no longer physical - it was in my self-image. I needed a new perception of myself. I needed a new image. I needed to change the way I thought about myself. I needed God's revelation of who I am in Christ.

As a young man in the work force I accepted Christ and he came into my heart, and that started a process of change that continues to this day. Though I was not looking for God at the time, He knew I needed Him. But that is a whole other long story. Believing in Jesus was the beginning of change.

To be whole and healthy as a person on the inside, and emotionally ready to meet the world, a person needs to believe they are loved, they are lovable, and that love will not be taken away. Jesus Christ, I can promise you, is that person who truly and unconditionally loves us. He is truly the lover of your soul.

Until I changed my perceptions of myself, being loved, lovable, and secure in that love was not possible. Becoming a Christian in itself was not enough as long as I continued to think of myself with the same old images and perceptions. I needed to learn who I am in Christ as a new creation and to see myself in a new light. I needed to change my mental image away from that struggling small boy I once was, to who I now am, in Christ, as an adult. This continues to be an on-going process of change and growth.

Not everyone has a negative self-image to overcome. Many kids and adults feel quite secure and confident, and feel that they are just fine as they are. Often people don’t see the need to understand the principles that work to build healthy self-images in others either, and as a result they are not able to teach their own kids to feel the same confidence they have always taken for granted.

The following principles will help anyone, whether you want to rebuild your own self-image, or build confidence and security in your children. This information, that I call the Three Perceptions and the Four Life Skills, is a collection of my own life experiences as well as the teachings of several authors and speakers.

It was God's plan and intention, that we all be loved, accepted, and trained by our parents. It was, and is, His desire that we be loved and encouraged even by our teachers, and Aunts and Uncles, as well as our neighbors. Every person we “looked up to” was supposed to love and treat us with respect and acceptance because it is the right thing to do. That is the way life should be. And children learn love and respect from those who are role models in their lives.

Love, acceptance, and respect are all reflections of God’s character and we were made to receive them from every person we have a relationship with. But people fall way short of the ideal. Life is not a perfect dream world. Many people are wounded and damaged as a result of fallen nature of the world we live in. This is reality, but it is not the way we were designed.

Some parents get divorced. One girl I know was hit by a car at eight years of age, in an unexplainable accident. Sometimes there is sickness in a family. My grandfather was orphaned as he was being born because his mother was unable to survive the birth. In another home there is hatred, and in another there is abuse. There are no end of horror stories. All of which leave wounds and often destroy a young child’s self-esteem. None of it is or was God's plan or intention.

As a Christian minister I deal with not only healing the past wounds, but training parents and kids for the future. The principles here are valuable for both cases. When it comes to healing the past wounds and hurts, I wish there were an easy way to convince people that God is good and has a wonderful plan for their life. I wish I could easily convince people that God can be trusted in every area of life. Yet I know that personal experiences color our perceptions and those impressions run deep and often remain immovable.

As I said, I could not believe for the longest time that I was loved, and lovable, and I could not rest secure in that love. I simply could not believe it. I thought if God did exist, which seemed unlikely to me at the time, He must have played a bad joke on me. This bitter mind-set affected every thing I did and every relationship I started for many many years.

The change for me began, as I mentioned, when I experienced Christ’s love for me in a tangible way when I was twenty-two, and the Word of God began to change my thinking. However over the years since then, it has helped me to learn three simple perceptions and four life skills that I picked up from the teachings of author H. Stephen Glenn. He has co-authored a book with Jane Nelsen, Ed.D. called, Raising Self- Reliant Children In A Self-Indulgent World.

Everyone needs to be building, if not their own image, the self-images of their children and grandchildren, to be more positive in order to see upward growth toward a more abundant life. These are individual and personal perceptions, it’s how we see and think about ourself. The four skills have to do with inner character that allows any of us to become who we want to become in life.

These Three Perceptions and Four Life Skills are not only for Christians. These are universal principles, like the laws of nature, anyone can benefit by learning them. Of course, to get the full value of these principles one needs to apply them with faith in Christ at the center. As you’ll see, this is not new. They are life principles as the Bible teaches us, but it is helpful when you see the simplicity of such a powerful tool.

These Three Perceptions are in fact deep human desires. We cannot live healthy productive lives without them. They are not optional. And acquiring them, if we don’t already have them, may take considerable time and effort. But from my own experience, it’s worth the effort at any cost. Christ can make it happen. The three healthy perceptions are:
I am Significant.
I am Capable.
And I have Influence.

Significant, capable, and having influence are the perceptions we gain when we feel loved, lovable, and secure. They are really one and the same. I use the words interchangeably, because I’ve found it doesn’t matter which word I use, as long as I can encourage myself and others in one of these areas. Think about it, this really will make a difference.

I can picture a withdrawn child, right now, who has little creativity or motivation to learn, because he or she feels “hit on” by busy parents commanding with their words: “Do this”, “Do that”, “Why were you late?”,” Don’t do that”, “ When are you ever going to learn to grow up?” The parents believe they are raising their son or daughter well, and would be offended to be told they were crushing their child. But their constant “demand without encouragement” style of training, does not build healthy confidence and self-esteem. It destroys it.

The same can be true at school and clubs, and it’s also in the working world even among adults. There was a kid at my school, when I was in sixth grade, with big metal teeth and we all called him “Swanny” and made his life miserable. We did a terrible thing to him as children. As an adult, name calling is not acceptable in the working world, but some people still have a way of bringing up every little mistakes people make, while never remembering to say something positive for the times someone helps them out. I’ve worked under dozens of people who have a way of making people feel small and unimportant.

Unfortunately, it is a fact of life that people who don’t feel good about themselves, and life in general, will naturally make other people feel bad. The cycle continues to grow. But we can turn this around, and it’s starts by building ourselves in Christ’s love, and then turning it toward others.

Out of love, real love, comes a sense of significance, a feeling of capability, and a sense of influence. We all need to know we are loved and accepted, and significant as a person, just as we are. That is why, as Christians, we don’t need self-help methods as such. We can learn the truth about how God, through Christ, really feels about us. It’s not positive thinking. It is learning to think the truth.

Ideally this should be the way we all see ourselves. These Three Perceptions have to do with our own self-image, not with other people's opinions. We cannot control what others say or think about us. But it is possible to change how we talk to ourselves. And equally important, it is very possible to change the way we raise and talk to our kids. Negative people raise negative kids. The starting point is learning to recognize these three perceptions working in our lives.

Second, it is better to decide you are significant, capable, and have influence in Christ, and just begin to grow upward until you see the results. If you decide you, or your child, are not significant, or capable or have influence in the world around you, I can only hope to warn you, life ahead is going to be full of hard times. Life is always tough, everyone struggles. But the champion struggles towards the goal. The over-comer struggles toward the top. And true love struggles to give kindness away to the one it loves. In each case struggle produces pain until the victory is attained. It will work and God is there to help us all.

A good place to start is always looking intently to Jesus. Just stop and say, "Jesus, I'm waiting for you to heal me. I want to be changed in your glory. Open the eyes of my heart to see who I am in you. I want to know the truth." And the truth will set you free.

In addition to the Three Perceptions there are also Four Life Skills that cannot be avoided. These skills are not opinions or positive thinking either. They are a requiremants for healthy life. They are base from which we live and who we become as people. But just like the three perceptions, some people grow up learning these skills from childhood and never struggle with them. Others were not trained and taught as kids, and now face the major task of retraining as an adult in the most basic area of life. But we have to do it. Our future is at stake. No one can be happy and healthy without these important skills. As parents, it is a must to recognize this truth and make it a top priority to feed our kids on all Three Perceptions and all Four Life Skills. The four skills are :

handling Responsibility,
making good Judgment,
Communicating with others,
and learning Self Control.

That’s it, it’s not a long list to remember. The principles here are so powerful that it will work for anyone, of any culture, any nationality and even for any religion, because the Three Perceptions and Four Life Skills are absolute rock bottom basics. Yet, the average person on the street will not have all seven facets of life.

I would go so far as to say that anyone who has all three perceptions and all four life skills working in their life, will somehow surface to the top to live an abundant life under any and all circumstances. These people come out as the winners, because they don’t quit, and they continue in faith until they reach their goal. Again, I ask you to think about this, it’s amazing, this is really true.

As a Pastor, I continually find that most people’s problems, my own included, go back to a lack of one of the above seven qualities. Building these qualities into our lives, it seems to me, is a major part of what the Christian life is all about. Ideally, every child would be loved and enjoyed, trained and taught responsible living while they were still in the concrete thinking stage, as small children. Once, we become adults and think on an abstract level, with all the emotional intricacies, even minor changes can take a great effort. But this is why faith in the finished work of Jesus is so important. He did for us, what we so often cannot do for ourselves.

This is very important information to me. It has helped me in my personal life and in raising our seven kids. I've seen what these simple truths can do to release a person from bondage and allow him or her to experience the joy and dignity of overcoming life's battles. I’ve seen numerous people be released from a life of misery and self-inflicted pain, to a life of helping others and finding meaningful love.

I'd been there myself. I wallowed in the pain. I wrestled to grab on to hope when there was none. I given in to self-pity and bitterness which is always a cancer. But I have also seen the sweet prize of just standing at the end of the day, looking over my world, with all the problems down below and yet knowing.........I made it. In Christ I am a new creation, all things are new, and I was chosen in Him before the foundations of the world. I am loved. I am loveable. I am secure in Jesus.

I am significant. I am capable. I do have influence. I am loved, I am lovable, and I am secure in that love. How is this possible? Am I boasting? No, in Christ I am a new creation. By faith I am changed into His image, now just a little, but more and more I am growing into the person He has created me to be. It is His Spirit at work in me. By grace I am saved through faith. Not of my own works, it is a gift from God. You may recognize these phrases as coming from the Bible. I don’t need to make them up. I do, however, need to believe the whole Bible as being true.

I can be responsible. I can make good judgments. I can learn to communicate what I mean and mean what I say. And I can have self-control. I’m not perfect but I have the hope of becoming who I am meant to be in Christ.

Everyone has this potential. Admittedly life is not fair. Some people are able to start on top, and as they take their first few steps of life, they are able to go downhill. Other people start down in a hole, with serious handicaps and they must climb out just to move forward. It’s not fair, but there is a just and loving God behind it all. He sees our efforts and He rewards us all accordingly.

Again, I wish I could convince everyone that God is always good and that He is not against you or any one of us. No matter where your starting point, your future is always forward. Your faith is between you and God.

The physical laws apply to everyone - gravity won't change your weight, whether you live in New York or New Zealand. And the same is true with these Three Perceptions and Four Life Skills. Every person needs them.

You are significant, because Christ died for you.
You are capable, because you are made in God's image and He is able.
You have influence because even God Himself listens to what you say. Now decide to believe. Decide to build, good judgment, responsibility, communication and self control.

In the process of building your Life Skills you will see your significance, capability, and influence rise. We will see an increase when we choose to move forward. We don't need to be Super-human, just making one step forward continually will get us there. The way from where you start, to where you want to go, is always one step ahead and keep going.

In the process, if you've never met Jesus as a personal friend - someone who both listens and talks to you when you're alone, by all means ask Him into your heart. He hears you, he knows what you're thinking right now. But he rarely comes in uninvited.
" Jesus, if you hear me, will you show me you are alive and that you care about me? I really want to know " is a good start as an opening prayer. Don't be too religious - be yourself. God knows everything you do, say, and think anyway. You'll never fool Him by acting different from who you really are. He's waiting for your open door. He'll come, and somehow he’ll let you know he came to visit. It's amazing.

And last of all, to us as parents, let”s build a better world though our kids. They don’t need trips and clubs and sporting events and expensive toys nearly so much as they need acceptance, encouragement, and to be enjoyed by their parents alone. Take time to check out what kind of kids and adults are influencing your kids. Don’t be one of these “tough-it-out” parents that believe their kids should be able to handle everything by themselves.

There is a time to teach strength, courage and toughness, but knowing love, security and responsible behavior needs to come first. Often kids are thrown into situations where they have to fight to survive. I see this in church nurseries all too often. I grieve for God’s children.

In closing, we start with ourself. If you want to feel important, let Jesus - the Son of God come to be with you. He does wonders to let you know that you are loved, you are lovable, and to give you security in God's love through Christ. And He has the perfect training program to teach Responsibility, good Judgment, Communication and Self-Control. God made us to be winners. And this is not positive thinking, this is reality thinking. And this is what WeBelieveIn.com is all about.

©2002 Warren Okerman