Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Part II: How Are You Seeing Things?

We all have biases. To say that I'm not biased is to suggest that I've never had experiences that shape my outlook and perspectives. The way I view my world and my place in it is richly textured and shaded by the sum total of my experiences in life.

But, sometimes I think it's wise to step out of our shoes, pull the reins as best we can on our sentiments and perspectives, and become a "reporter" on the scene of our own lives. To force ourselves to assume a modicum of detachment (recognizing complete subordination of human bias is impossible).

I wrote earlier in the week about the faulty lenses that can destabilize us. These often begin with feelings or hunches in the heart that become conclusions in the mind and, ultimately, drivers of our actions. If the lens is not processing reality, we can encounter trouble.

Let's pretend for a moment that we are looking at this subject from the perspective of a good journalist:

Faulty Lens #1: Disregard for the facts

Running on instinct (the wrong way)

The editor has handed down an assignment. "This is what happened. Go get the full story." Our investigative reporter will then pursue all sorts of hunches, tips and leads as he chases down various angles on the story. He may arrive at a compelling hypothesis along the way. But a good reporter never welds together a conclusion on the basis of unproven guess work or feelings. He must move from suspicions and speculations and rumors and innuendo to facts. In our own lives, sometimes this means we need to ask ourselves whether or not our hearts are trouncing all over our minds.

While feelings and impressions can guide us toward a good conclusion, we need to be careful that the primary default for our decisions isn't resident in feelings alone. Sometimes we do know with near certainty that certain feelings have been put upon our hearts by God. I wrote recently about a calling I had to attend seminary. I am less certain of other conclusions I've arrived at emotionally. It's wiseto recognize that emotions can be deceiving, and that a careful, somewhat detached assessment of the facts makes for better choices and a healthier outlook.

Cherry-picking the facts

A good reporter doesn't focus on one set of facts to the exclusion of other important information. The beloved patriarch, Joseph, had been convicted of an act of seduction he didn't commit (Genesis 39). He fell to a prideful, vengeful woman's response to rejection and a husband's hotheaded outrage. Then a rush to judgment in the absence of facts. I'll grant you, the fact that the wife had Joseph's garment to wave about didn't look good. But wasn't there more to consider? One wonders if Joseph was given an opportunity to even defend himself. One wonders if the husband had taken a moment to reflect upon other facts. How about Joseph's character, his work history, and the blessings that blanketed the household during Joesph's tenure. What about the wife? One wonders if there were other "red flags" that, perhaps, the husband had missed or somehow tolerated? Does an otherwise good and trustworthy woman find it so easy to to be this cunning? Surely there were some clues to the nature of her heart and her reliability that long preceded this event. Were there relevant facts in this case that were ignored?

I'm reminded of the hot spotlight on security guard, Richard Jewell, some years ago. Never formally indicted in the 1996 Centennial Olympic Bombing, he was "tried by the media" in a thin, barely circumstantial investigative debacle that essentially ran on the fumes of editorial zeal and emotion.

In the tragic and baffling case of little Madeline McCann who went missing in Portugal, we have the helpful bachelor living nearby with his mother who was the initial focus of the investigation because, well, he was a helpful bachelor living nearby with his mother. The guy tried to help the family with some translation issues then found himself a focus of the investigation. Not because anyone had any evidence against him, mind you. But he was a little too helpful and a little old to still be living with Mum!

In the book of Deuteronomy, we're given the test for false prophets. (Dt 18: 20-:22). If a prophet's claims don't come true, those claims did not come from God. This is simple, timeless fact checking that we can apply not only to religious deceivers today but to other areas of question in our lives. "This is the claim or this is the promise; these are the facts. Do they square up?" While not every decision will wait on specific proof to comfort or convince us, we should know the experience of suspending our emotions and judgments as we dig a bit deeper, in some cases, for the truth.

Coming Soon... Faulty Lens #2: The Black Cloud Syndrome

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