Monday, April 18, 2016

Why do you want to believe that?

I have to give credit to Dr. Laura Schlessinger for a penetrating question she asked a caller years ago on her radio show. The caller explained her situation, then described her conclusion that someone was against her. The host questioned the caller's conclusions, based on the evidence presented. There was not enough evidence for the ill will perceived by the caller.

The doctor realized that the caller was choosing to believe something, even without sufficient evidence. The real question was why the caller would want to believe something negative.

I have come to ask myself this question regularly. Why do I want to believe my wife would forget that important thing? Why do I want to believe that this person would stand me up for an appointment? Why do I want to believe that God would delight in my failure?

If we ask ourselves this question, we can catch ourselves in our prejudicial thinking. We can become more objective, and actually come closer to the truth.

To account for bias in the media, we can ask ourselves why we want to believe certain news reports. When I hear a negative report about that politician I don't like, I'm all too eager to believe it. But when I hear a negative report about one that I favor, I give him/her the benefit of the doubt. In my limited experience with the media -- as a local newspaper reporter, as the subject of articles, and as a consumer -- I realize how inaccurate news reports can be. Even so
, there are some things that I want to believe and others that I don't. That's true for all of us, whether we want to admit it or not.

We can also ask this question about others. On occasion it may be appropriate to come right out and ask the question. But more often, we can use that question to help us understand others' points of view. Why does she think I'm angry? Why does he think I'm trying to trick him? Why does he think so-and-so hates him?

I'm persuaded that if we dig below the surface, we can see what's really going on at the heart level. We might have more understanding and compassion, for ourselves and for others.