Recently my daughter Maria purchased a write-it-yourself children’s book for her four-year-old daughter, Grace. The book came with some stickers of characters you would see in an animated movie about a castle and a royal family. The characters included a king, queen, princess, wizard, town jester, and prince in shining armor.
Since Grace was to be the author of the book, it was up to her to choose names for each of the characters. Then, with Maria’s help, she could write a story about the characters. The first character that Grace gave a name to was the princess. Of course, the name of the princess was “Grace.”
She gave the prince in shining armor the name of “Joe” which is her dad’s name. She chose her mom’s name, “Maria,” for the queen. When Maria asked Grace what the name of the king was, Grace paused and then answered, “The king’s name is ‘Campobasso.’” Maria immediately knew who Grace was talking about, because Maria’s husband has a good friend by the name of Mike Campobasso.
When she got to the town jester, Grace asked her mom what a jester is. Maria responded by telling her that a jester is someone who entertains people and makes them laugh. Grace excitedly said, “Oh, then the name of the jester is ‘Jidu.’”
In the Lebanese language, a grandfather is referred to as “Jidu.” Since Georgette and I are both of Lebanese heritage, all my grandchildren call me Jidu. So I was the lucky person who got to be the jester in Grace’s book.
When Maria and Grace got to the wizard, the only man left who Grace could think of at the moment was her grandfather on her dad’s side of the family, so she named the wizard after him.
When Grace was finished naming each of the characters, she told Maria how she wanted the story of the royal family to be written. At one point in Grace’s story, King Campobasso and Queen Maria are sitting on their thrones trying to decide who they should hire to entertain their guests. They agree that they should call in the town jester, Jidu, to entertain the guests.
When Maria told me how Grace had named the characters in her book, I reacted by saying, “She made ME the jester and Campobasso the king? It should have been the other way around. I can’t believe you allowed your daughter to make her grandfather a jester while her dad’s buddy was made the king!”
Maria wasn’t sure if I was serious or teasing her, but just in case I was serious, she defended her daughter by saying, “Dad, she gave the jester your name because you always tease her and make her laugh. Every time she reads the story, she giggles when she comes to the jester, because it’s a reminder of how you always tease her. You know how you always walk into a room where your grandchildren are and act up so they’ll give you their attention.”
Maria was right. Sometimes I misbehave so much around my grandchildren that Georgette feels compelled to tell me that I’m setting a bad example and that I need to stop getting them worked up.
Although we may not give much thought as to how we are perceived by others, everyone who is familiar with us has an opinion about us that is based on what we’ve said to them, what they’ve heard about us, and what they’ve observed about us.
Most of us would be surprised if we knew how we are actually perceived by our family members, friends, and colleagues. While we may think we come across as confident, charming, and easy to get along with, the people who know us best may see us as arrogant, condescending, and temperamental.
While we may view ourselves as being courteous and professional, others may see us as phony and conceited.
While we may see ourselves as the kings or queens of our families, our grandchildren may see us as nothing more than town jesters.
Just for the record, I’m amused that my granddaughter made me the town jester in her story book. She could have made me the bully who mistreats his wife, or the grumpy old man who treats his grandchildren as though they are pests and frequently tells them that “children should be seen and not heard.” I’m glad she doesn’t perceive me that way.
The way people perceive us is usually situational. As teenagers and young adults, my older children perceived me as being too extreme in my beliefs about what they should wear, who they should hang out with, and what movies they should see. They thought I was “old fashioned” and overprotective. Their perceptions have started to change now that they are married and raising their own children.
If a husband puts pressure on his wife to develop a deeper prayer life and to be more tolerant of other people’s views, despite the fact that he loves her and may be correct about what he is telling her, she may perceive him as being a control freak who doesn’t understand what she is going through.
If a wife puts pressure on her husband to be more prudent about what he watches on television because she believes he is not being a good example to his teenage sons, despite the fact that she may be correct and is only pushing him because she loves him and her sons, he may think that she’s being manipulative and doesn’t appreciate what he does for her and their family.
In most cases, it doesn’t really matter how other people perceive us as long as we maintain an active prayer life, do our best to live a pure and holy life, and strive to regularly assist others by performing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
The ultimate question that we should focus on is: “How does God perceive us?” Why is this question so important? Because He perceives us as we truly are. In order to see ourselves as God sees us, one of our daily prayers should be: “Dear God, please help me to see myself as you see me.”