“The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both.”
The discipline here is twofold: See what needs to be seen and hear what needs to be heard. The challenge is that our ability to see clearly and listen effectively was damaged at the fall. As a result our perception is distorted. The good news is that in Christ our capacity for thinking and listening has been redeemed. But as we have learned in our study of Proverbs, being redeemed and being skillful are not the same thing. We must trust God and do the work in order to grow and get better in the way we think and hear.
It is helpful to be aware of common thinking errors that tend to trip us up. There are mental traps that we must be careful not to fall into.
Spotlight Effect. We don’t see the whole situation; we only see a part. That’s OK as long as we understand there is more to see and then do the work to gain a broader perspective. The problem is that our perception is limited, but it feels complete. We think we see more than we actually do, and we often miss realities and information that are critical to the situation.
Confirmation Bias is the trap of seeking and giving weight to information that confirms our opinion, while ignoring and giving little weight to evidence that disconfirms our opinion. Not only will people ignore disconfirming evidence, they will often go so far as to distort information that might indicate their perspective or opinion isn’t correct. This leads to the next mental trap ...
Cognitive Dissonance is the feeling of discomfort that results when you are confronted with information or evidence that runs counter to your beliefs. When what you believe to be true is challenged by facts or evidence, you experience dissonance (emotional stress), and the tendency is to try to explain away the evidence in order to hold to your beliefs. This reveals that our beliefs are often more emotional than rational.
Negativity Bias is our tendency to register negative things more readily than positive things, and then to dwell on the negative. Also known as positive-negative asymmetry, negativity bias means that criticisms have a greater impact than compliments and bad news draws more attention than good. We tend to respond more strongly to negative events than to equally positive ones.
Tyranny of Either/Or. This is the trap of thinking that something must be either “A” or “B”, and failing to recognize that it might be possible to be both. Or that there are other solutions or decisions beyond “A” or “B”.
These mental traps are easy to fall into, and it takes wisdom and discipline to be aware of them and avoid them. The central theme of the Book of Proverbs is the call to fear the Lord and commit to the disciplined process of developing wisdom. That means being a disciplined thinker and listener. See what needs to be seen, and hear what needs to be heard.
“Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” (1 Corinthians 14.20)
More on this next week ...