One of the phrases I loathe in today's business and social world is "Perception is Reality." Today, Matt Kennedy published a story on Stand Firm about the definition of "faithfulness" and it brought this problem to mind.
One of the tenents of post-modernism is that every person has their own meaning for words and, so, the only thing that really matters is what the reader or listener understand the meaning to be - that the author's intent should not be attended to or it should be secondary to the listener's/reader's understanding. The first part of that statement is true. We all have, because of our experiences, our own shading on the meanings of words - particularly words with religious significant such as "faithfulness." However, the second statement - that the author's intent should be seconded to one's understanding does not follow. The author's intent and meaning should be what drives the conversation, not the reader's understanding.
I believe that this is a problem that comes up from "perception is reality" thinking. It is true that we act on our own perception of reality. But that does not mean that our perception is reality. Reality is reality and our perception is always faulty.
In religious terms, the difference between Reality and our perception is commonly called "sin." If I perceive that marital faithfullness is not broken unless I have sexual intercourse outside of marriage and I then have several female friends where we perform oral sex on each other, then I do not perceive that I have sinned, but I still have sinned. My perception did not match reality. Even if my wife agrees with me, I still have sinned. I submit that the majority of our sins are committed because we truly do not and cannot perceive reality. But we still sin.
So, how do we come to perceive reality more truly? Some submit that this is a problem of knowledge. We simply need to be instructed in what the right is and then we will do it. Some submit that this is a problem of our nature and we should just accept that we are all just human and we should support and bless those who are being faithful to their perceived reality.
I say that it is a matter of our will and not our minds. Our wills are so twisted that we cannot know reality - even when we are educated about it. Our will reject reality in favor of our perception. The way to solve this is not just education (although education can be a part of it). We need to have our wills destroyed and remade. This is the process of sanctification or theosis. This is the process of developing our conscience (with knowledge) and submission of our wills to God's will. So, how do we know God's will? Well, as individuals it is very hard to know God's will. God's voice sounds an aweful lot like our own when we are by ourselves. We have to listen to what God has said in the past (Scripture and Tradition) and listen to what the Church says now (Reason).
The second answer (just accept that we are sinful and then bless people when they are being true to their perception) denies that there really is sin. It makes Jesus' sacrifice on the cross meaningless and empties the Resurrection of its power. We cannot bless sinful behavior - no matter how well meaning the behavior is.
Perception is not reality. Reality is reality. We need to pray and study and submit so that we can see reality more clearly. Changing our perception to match Reality is not so much a problem of the mind. It is a problem of the will. We need "to die daily to sin" so that we can perceive reality.