Monday, June 24, 2013

Limitations on Truth: Bias for Ourselves and against Others

Knowing the truth is hard to do. One reason: reality is far more complex than we can comprehend. This is a limitation that confronts all of us even at our very best.

Sadly, we are rarely at our very best. Not only is our thinking unavoidably limited. It is also inescapably flawed. Our thinking is corrupted by sin. It remains flawed because of the break in our relationship with God. It remains flawed because of the corruption of our thinking made possible by evil powers that persist in that break.

Jesus emphasized one flaw from which our thinking suffers because of sin:

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye (Matthew 7:1-5, New Revised Standard Version).

So one flaw in our thinking, caused by sin, is this: our bias. Our thinking is biased in favor of ourselves and against others. It is also biased in favor of our group against other groups.

Because of this bias, we exaggerate our own virtues and strengths. Typically we even imagine ourselves having virtues and strengths that we lack. In other words, our biased interpretation of reality even constructs facts to fit it.

Conversely, because of this bias, we also exaggerate the vices and weaknesses of others. Typically, we even imagine others to have vices and weaknesses that they lack. In other words, again, our biased interpretation of reality even constructs facts to fit it.

As human beings, we all have this bias against truth almost all the time. Those of us who are committed to living as radiant witnesses to Jesus will experience this as a constant challenge. As Christians, we want to share the light, love, and vitality of Jesus with others. This bias limits that.

Happily, Jesus is the truth who frees us from this bias. He doesn’t do this automatically, or all the time, or permanently. But he does do it. And when he does it, he enables us to love others. He enables us to express that love by affirming the virtues and strengths in others. He also enables us to express that love by acknowledging our own vices and weaknesses.

Copyright © 2013 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.