Thursday, September 13, 2018

What We Think We Know

“We make assumptions about the world around us based on sometimes incomplete or false information...We make decisions based on what we think we know.” ~ Simon Sinek, Start with Why, p. 11

One of the phenomena that we have seen with the rise of internet based media (from blogs to social media to YouTube to Podcasts) is that anyone with an internet connection is able to voice their opinion.

Since the United States protects the freedom of speech, Americans have adopted the idea of giving everyone a voice as a primary value. One way we see this value in our culture is through the declaration that "voting as a sacred duty." Voting, people say, is an opportunity to "let your voice be heard."

The major problem of giving everyone a voice is that opinions are not equally valid.

We may hold an opinion, but often that opinion was formed with either insufficient or faulty data. Very few of our opinions and beliefs that we cling to did we do extensive research on before adopting. Rather, we simply believed what a trusted source told us.

This reality should make us humble and guide the way we present our opinions.

That should be the case, but that is not how it works in the real world.

We know, from our experience on social media, that humility is often absent in the presentation of ideas, beliefs, and opinions.

It is difficult for us to accept the possibility that we may be wrong about an issue. The reason we hold the opinions and beliefs that we have is because we believe they are true. Often these ideas form our world view.

No wonder why many of us take a stance of certainty rather than humility. We are worried that if we are wrong on this one point, we may be wrong about our entire belief system.

Here is one of the problems that is attached to a stance of certainty: we are unable to listen to what others say. Worse than that we will call anyone who disagrees with us "ignorant" or "foolish."

In other words, we do not extend to others the respect of being listened to, and they are due that respect because they are people created in the image of God.

Not listening to another person is improper conduct for a follower of Jesus.

Proverbs 11:2 reads; “Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” (NLT)

Do you want to be wise?

The price tag for wisdom is humility.

You have to understand, regardless of your education level or how much you have read, that there are huge gaps in your understanding.

The reality is that ALL of us are ignorant about most everything in the world.

Be willing to admit that you could be wrong about what you believe.

In book of James, the brother of Jesus wrote:
“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.” 
James 1:19-21 (NLT)
James identified the essential action for gaining knowledge and growing in wisdom: “be quick to listen.”

We love to offer our opinion.

We don’t enjoy remaining silent long enough to hear the thoughts of another person.

It is true that we may pretend to be polite by being quiet, but the reality is our mind is at work creating our next argument. Too often we do this based on an assumption of what is being said, rather than what is actually being said.

This type of behavior is toxic for a civil society. We are able to see the consequences of this behavior all around us. I believe it is one of the reasons why the United States feels deeply divided. We lack the humility to examine what other people have to offer.

Without humility we will not give other people a fair hearing, and  we will continue to move forward based on our assumptions rather than discovering what is actually true.

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