In my travels, I have found that people have this destructive tendency I call the habit of projection. Basically, it means that we take the experience of a part and project this to define our perception of the whole. Where I see it often is at fast food places. Sometimes, we can allow one bad coffee, or one lot of soggy fries, or one mistaken order to influence our perception of the whole company. When we hear the name of that company, we associate it with that negative experience.
But the thing is, the bad coffee, soggy fries or mistaken order is not the company’s fault. It occurred at one particular store, on one particular day, by one particular crew person at one particular time. Yes, granted, the crew are a representation of the company, but they are not THE company. Additionally, as every person is different, how can we expect to get the same product every time and at every place? So letting one experience define our perception of the whole company doesn’t make sense.
But really though, I’m not that fussed over your idea of fast food places. And really, if one bad burger discourages me from eating any more fast food burgers, then this habit of projection is probably a good thing.
Yet where this habit of projection is really disheartening, and unfortunately very common, is in relation to the church. Using myself as an example, I know I have harmfully projected my experience of a few Christians who have not met my expectations onto the church.
The issue here is that if we get into the habit of allowing an experience with one person to influence our experience of the whole, then we will very quickly spiral into a lonely hole of criticism and hurt. At first, we may project this single experience onto the specific church and so we move to a different church congregation. But inevitably, another Christian there will again not meet our expectations, and so we move on again, maybe even to a different denomination, and continue this spiral until we eventually reach the point of projecting our hurt onto the Church as a whole and even God.
In all of this, we forget that although Christians are ambassadors of God, they are not God nor are they perfect. The Church is made up of broken people who will make mistakes. Fact. As Steven Furtick mentioned in a podcast I heard the other day, we are hurt by people, not by the Church, and so we need to deal with our hurt with this mindset.
Adding to this, while working in McCafé myself, I made my fair share of bad coffees and trained other people who also made their share of bad coffees (so sorry). But in neither case did Head Office throw us out for our mistakes. No. They were gracious and would give us more training, knowing full well that our training was not yet complete.
In the same way, could it be that when we finally come to God with our hurts over what one of his ambassadors has done, he replies with, ‘I’m sorry for what they did. I’m sorry for how they hurt you. But I’m not finished with them yet’? Could it be he says the same thing about us to another person as well?
Food for thought.
– Jeshanah Eames