Have you ever wondered why a friend or a relative simply could not understand why you held a certain position or belief? Maybe he/she may have actually told you, “I can’t for the life of me understand why you think that way.”
We’ve all been there. Especially these days.
I recently listened to a podcast about why we receive or reject information. Psychologists have determined that there are two biases that set the stage for all the others:
Confirmation Bias: the human brain welcomes information that confirms what it already thinks and resists information that disturbs or contradicts what it already thinks.
Complexity Bias: the human brain prefers a simple lie to a complex truth.
We all have biases. It’s not just the other person, though it’s often easier to see it in others. As Jesus once asked, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
One of the big arguments I had with Jesus was that he seldom gave a simple answer to the questions he was asked. Surely, a direct, easy to follow answer would be in order. For years my complexity bias had a very hard time understanding that Jesus was making people deal with complex truths.
And don’t we all love it when we hear information that fits neatly into what we already believe or think? I know I do. But throw in something that doesn’t quite fit or directly opposes what I think and the response is almost automatic. No, no, a thousand times no!
Before we so quickly dismiss the thinking of others as being wrongheaded or off the wall, we would do well to consider the ways that we ourselves are biased. What are we missing when we only expect to accept thinking that is just like ours or comes to us in neatly packaged simple ways?
Instead of being on the lookout for specks in other people’s eyes, Lent presents us with the humbling opportunity to pay attention to those big ol’ planks in our own. Our biases can be blinders to expanding our understanding of others AND ourselves.
May we all learn to identify our biases and question them. In this, the beginning of Lent, we can explore our biases and work through our own, before pointing our fingers at those of others.