Oh, how highly we think of ourselves. We will believe most anything as long as it seems to confirm or serve our self-interests.
Recently—in Do You Want Me to Lie to You?—I talked about a king who really only wanted advice from people who told him what he wanted to hear. This is called Confirmation Bias, and it’s a dangerously seductive tendency of human nature to that we all wrestle with to some extent.
Sometimes our self-interests aren’t good—sometimes they’re even downright bad. But regardless of whether good or bad, the fact is that we will, more often than not, seek out what we want to hear in order to confirm what we already believe.
When we have a negative view of something, we’ll seek out those with the same view, and listen voraciously to confirm what we believe. When we have a positive viewpoint, we’ll seek out and pay attention to those who share the same view to confirm what we believe.
We hope to find people that we like and trust—people that are respected by others who share our views. And the voices of those whose opinions or beliefs are on ‘the other side of the coin’ are mostly dismissed as ‘sadly uninformed’, or ‘troublemakers’, or even ‘extremists’.
When we are unhappy in our marriage, and the thought of getting a divorce crosses our mind, there are many voices we can listen to.
- We can listen to voices that encourage us to work on our marriage…
- Or we can listen to voices that tell us that getting divorced is the best solution.
Ultimately, chances are high that we will listen to the voices that we want to hear, and naturally use those voices to confirm what we probably already believe.
Sometimes those voices are just in your head….
If we’ve made poor decisions, and people who care about us are confronting us about those decisions, we may convince ourselves that someone is the ring leader. We might even get mad at one of those people and blame them for everything, when in fact the people who cared about us all saw the same shortcoming.
Instead of hearing the truth that they were all speaking, we often tend to make one person the target as a distraction from our own shortcomings.
The above examples are real stories that are happening close to me right now in my life.
We sometimes think so highly of ourselves that we believe whatever we need to in order to prop up the pedestal we have put ourselves on. And this “confirmation bias” is just a natural part of being human—it’s something we’re all prone to do, and I’m no exception.
There’s only one way we can truly overcome the dangerous seduction of confirmation bias…
Become someone who craves truth…
And I mean real truth—not subjective truth, or your own truth—not what makes you feel good, but real truth.
As a Christian, I believe that God is truth and ultimately the way we can overcome this seductive confirmation bias in our nature is to filter it through him.
So—for example—when your internal dialogue starts tempting you, making you feel more and more certain that those people in the corner were just laughing at your expense… You’ll start noticing things that seem to confirm what you’re thinking.
- One of them looked at you, spoke to the other, and they started laughing…
- Now everyone’s also smiling. They’re probably all enjoying it now.
Stop. Take a step back and challenge yourself with some honest, truth-seeking questions…
- Were those people who were in the corner really laughing at me?
- Do they even know me?
- Am I so important that they even noticed me?
- Perhaps they never even noticed me and they were just having a good time.
If I want to believe that I’m so important, that they took the time to notice me… and that they found something funny enough about me to laugh together at my expense… if I ‘write the story’ like that for myself, then I will confirm what it is that I believe about myself, and I will convince myself that it was all about me.
At the end of the day, does it really matter? If we follow Biblical commands and we think of others more highly then we think of ourselves, it may force us to see things differently.
Instead of seeking others to confirm our biases, take the your time and try to understand the other party. I’d love to hear any thoughts or comments you might have below.