Thursday, August 11, 2016

Thinking You're Right...Even When You're Wrong

Photo Credit: cowboycoffee
We live in turbulent times. We see it everywhere we look...

We find ourselves in the throes of a contentious presidential election season.

Our nation's ugly legacy of racism has confronted us as a people yet once again.

We're experiencing profound challenges to long-held societal assumptions about religion and sexual identity.

As Bob Dylan once said, "The times they are a-changin."

So how do we respond when faced with differing opinions and listening to the perspectives of others that are different than our own?

Sadly, the stance that many of us take is to dig in our heels, shout down our opponents and ignore that which challenges what we think to be true. Many of us are not even willing to consider the reality that we could be wrong about things we are positive to be true. And when we encounter those that challenge our deeply cherished beliefs, we are more likely to enter a debate rather than a conversation.

Rather than demonstrating a humility that considers where someone else is coming from, we discount others without pause. This is not to suggest we live without convictions. But the more secure I am in my beliefs and opinions, the less threatened I should feel by those that see things differently.

As a Christian with strong convictions, I hope that my most deeply cherished beliefs are grounded in the character of God and based in the trustworthiness of the Holy Scriptures. Furthermore, those beliefs are shaped by my experiences, the perspectives of those I know to be trustworthy and that which seems to be true.

All too often those that claim to be followers of Christ express opinions about things like race and politics in a manner that has little to do with Jesus and everything to do with what their parents taught them and the cultural norms they inherited.

I am continually shocked when I see people I know to be otherwise kind and friendly turn into downright nasty when encountering those with whom they disagree. This is not wise. It does not honor God. And its not befitting for those who name the name of Christ. We must do better.

Unfortunately, when we think that we are right and that everyone else is wrong about a given issue, we're particularly susceptible to approach others in a dismissive and condescending manner. But I believe that it's possible to have strong certainty about something yet still interact with others in a humble and gracious way.

Perhaps Julia Galef has an appropriate suggestion for us.

In a recent TED Talk video, Galef illustrates the difference between soldiers -- those prone to defend their viewpoint at all costs -- and scouts -- those spurred by curiosity. You can watch the video here.

In her closing, Julia says this:
"If we want to really improve our judgments as individuals and as societies, what we need most is not more instruction in logic or rhetoric or probability or economics, even those things are quite valuable.  
What we most need to use those principles well is "scout mindset." We need to change the way we feel. We need to feel proud instead of ashamed when we notice we might have been wrong about something. We need to learn how to feel intrigued instead of defensive when we encounter information that contradicts our beliefs.  
Do you yearn to defend your own beliefs...or do you yearn to see the world as clearly as you possibly can?"
This is a good question for us to ask ourselves. Do we actually want to learn what is true or do we only desire to defend that which we already believe?

If what we already believe is the truth, then we have nothing to fear. We will become even more secure in that belief knowing it is on a solid foundation.

But if what we think to be true is false, then wouldn't any thinking person what to know this?

Knowing the truth and the exploration of the truth should not be feared. Jesus himself said, "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32) As someone that seeks to love God with my heart, soul, strength and mind, I can be secure in holding by beliefs while at the same time carrying myself in a charitable manner with those that believe differently.

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