I made some discoveries about colors recently. It kind of freaks me out a little.
A few years ago, when we first bought our home, we were in the process of making it ours. One aspect of that process was painting. A sub-category of painting is choosing the colors.
The concept of color selection has taken on a whole new meaning for me since we started perusing the countless color swatches at the home improvement stores. To put this in perspective I need you to understand that I grew up with the primary color range that I used to identify every color. It didn’t matter if it was light green or dark green, it was just green to me. Then Crayola came out with the BIG box of 64 crayons with the built-in sharpener and I was overwhelmed. To top it all off they changed the names of the colors!!
Blue was blueberry, red was strawberry, and yellow was lemon, and I became convinced that they were edible since fruit was the major theme in the naming convention. I’d heard of kids eating crayons before, and I think this is how it started. I’m willing to bet when they changed “flesh” to “peach” the child Hannibal Lecter was pretty upset.
Then they started mixing them and I was exposed to “taupe”, and “mauve”, and others that I couldn’t describe because I was too much of a purist to understand the concept! I was just trying to stay in the lines!! Why did I have to coordinate?!
I remember an incident as a child when my family was going to Las Vegas to visit my godparents. I had a plastic container of about 20 crayons which I put on the rear dashboard.
Inside the window.
As we drove through the desert.
Now crayons, being wax, have certain well-defined shapes when they are kept in the proper environment. This was a questionable environment for crayons.
As we drove through the Nevada desert with the sun beating down on the rear window, as though Lucifer’s eyeball was having a staring contest with our car, I got bored. I got out my coloring book and reached for the container of crayons.
In a word it was “psychedelic”. All the crayons had melted and mixed together! This was the 60’s and the term “psychedelic” had a very particular meaning for some people then, but this was the first time I was able to apply it to any situation that occurred in my world. I think it was about this time that when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I started saying, “I want to be a hippy!” My dad didn’t seem pleased.
Now I’m finding out things about colors that never occurred to me. We wanted the walls in our new home to be a certain color, and have one wall another color as an accent. I knew about, and understood, this concept, but had never really done anything with it in the past.
Off we went to the hardware emporium of the world to get the samples we needed. First, you stop at the “Walls of Colors”. There are little paper swatches of colors, and then there are bigger swatches with multiple colors, and then there are little booklets that show different color combinations, and then there are even BIGGER booklets with pages of little color boxes that show you the whole range of colors! And of course, each paint manufacturer has a wall all to themselves, AND they rename all the same colors to something different because of course they can’t match the same color name as their competitor, can they?! I bet there’s actually a department in each company devoted to coming up with color names! And I’ll also bet they hired them from the crayon company!
Once we found a suitable collection of choices, we went to the counter to have samples made. “Sample” is a word that has very different meanings depending on the product in question. I was looking at countertops several years ago at a stonecutter’s shop and he asked if I needed samples. When I said yes, he went over to this huge slab of granite and broke a piece off! Paint samples are a small jar of paint that could probably cover half a wall! So anyway, we take the samples home and start painting different colored squares on various walls.
My wife has a very well-developed skill in decorating. When she says something will look good I have long since ceased to question her choices no matter how weird they may sound to me. It always works no matter what she does. I don’t really understand it, but I really don’t have to understand it because I trust her implicitly since she hasn’t tried to dress me in funny clothes. Not yet anyway.
She painted a color that seemed like “white” to me on the wall. The wall she painted it on looked “white” as well. Until she painted the sample on it. Now the white wall looked “more white”. Then she painted some of the sample paint on the darker accent wall and the “white” sample looked yellow!!!
“Hey! Now it’s yellow!” I cried in amazement.
“No, it's still white. You just see it as yellow next to the other color. It’s all about perception honey.” She replied.
Then she put other samples on other walls and they looked different because of the way the light hit them at different times of the day!
Consider my mind blown.
But now I, being me, couldn’t just leave it alone. I started applying it to myself.
I started to wonder how my life is perceived in relation to my environment. (Stop with the metaphors!! Stop it now!) I can’t help it. Sorry. (I often argue with myself in my head. It’s the only place where I always win.)
Anyway, I started to look at myself in a different way. I began to wonder what I look like or how I am perceived by other people. If I’m always the “real me” in different environments then I will sometimes provide a contrast to my surroundings. If I become a people pleaser then no one sees me any differently because I change to match everyone else’s viewpoint. I become a chameleon.
The problems with this are legion.
Eventually I wind up lying to someone about who I am. Maybe not straight out lying, but often by agreeing with someone just so they feel good about me even though I may actually oppose their view is actually a lie. The real kicker here is that while I want to be everyone’s friend, I am assuming that to be their friend we must agree on everything, but true friendship needs to be based on truth, so by falsely agreeing with someone I become a false friend. I have dishonored that person by allowing them to become friends with a mask I wore.
It usually begins with an effort to avoid conflict. In my desire to create a friendship I neglect my need to be myself rather than being myself to satisfy my need for friendship. I can’t be a true friend unless I can do it honestly. That means that I can’t always be someone’s friend if they require my constant agreement.
I discovered some time ago that “agreement” and “understanding” are not interchangeable concepts.
There is no way to be a true friend by always agreeing with everyone. Others have to be able to know who I really am, if I’m going to be their friend.
Sometimes, when I tell someone about the events of my life, they respond emotionally and say something like, “You’re such a good man!” or “You’re so strong now!” or some other praise. I often hesitate to say anything anymore because I don’t want people to think I’m saying it as some kind of proof of my stalwartness or something. The honest fact of the matter is that I’m just a guy who this stuff happened to. I’m not special for it, or better than anyone else, just because it happened to me. I don’t have any greater authority than I ever did before. What I do have is experience in survival, which, while valuable, still does not add to my intrinsic value as a person. I tried the whole “bitterness and depression” thing, but I can tell you honestly that it didn’t give me anything good. It took years to claw my way out of that pit. No, the only qualities I have in anyone else’s life are whatever that person perceives me to have for themselves. I can only be myself, but what they do with it is up to them.
My real value does not change, like colors, based on someone else’s perspective. I have chosen to acknowledge the authority of my Creator, and listen to Him express His opinion of my worth. His opinion of me never changes, regardless of what I do or the situation I get myself into. I daily fail to live up to His standards of me in some way, but He never stops loving me nor does my value in His eyes decrease. Unlike the patches of color on our walls, that seemed to change in different light, He sees me the same all the time regardless of any mask I wear.
When I start to acknowledge and appreciate His love for me, I am forced to examine my life to see if I’m treating others the same way He treats me. I have discovered too many moments where His love for me is not reflected in my treatment of others at all. I now realize that we all have the ability to care for other people and still be ourselves, but we have to make the choice to exercise that ability.
So, I’m making that choice. I choose to seek in you what there is to love, and not to hate.
What you do with that is up to you.
©Dan Bode 2022