Wednesday, January 14, 2015

5 tips for clearer thinking. Or, Don’t be lazy! Take two minutes to clear off all the snow to navigate safely! Or, don't be a port-hole...thinker.

Every winter you see them out on the roads and do your best to avoid them.

They are the cars covered in snow with only a small port-hole sized spot cleared on the windshield. The rest of the car is covered in snow and ice.

Could these people be any lazier?

How much more time would it take to clean off the entire car?

Whenever I get in my car in the winter, I clear it off completely, including the roof, hood, and back of the car, as well as the lights all around.

I want to be able to see clearly on the road, as well as be seen clearly. It only takes a minute or two to get the job done right.

Sadly, there are people who are like snow covered cars careering through life with a distorted, incomplete “port-hole” viewpoint.

Are you like this? Don’t be! “Port-holing” is a good way to get blind-sided and be viewed as a jerk.

Here are five view-inhibiting lazy-minded attitudes to clear away from your thinking.

1. Truisms are often false


I hate truisms. Especially when people cling to them like life rafts.

A couple of my most loathed are “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” and “Past behavior dictates future behavior.”

Both are incredibly dismissive of people. They deny the power of God’s transforming grace, the reality that people do change, and that we often misperceive others.

While there may be some modicum of truth to these and other truisms, when applied to living, breathing people they fail to reveal the multi-faceted dimensions of individual personalities.
The truth: People are complex, defying easy categorization. Even though we like to box each other in with our quick, shallow impressions of one another, truisms always fall short of describing who a person really is. They may make for clever posters, but they are damaging to people and relationships.

2. Issues are not one-sided

When I was in high school, part of our speech class involved debating. We were required to argue both sides of an issue. This was especially tough when the issue was near and dear to my heart and I felt strongly about which was the right side.

But it was an excellent exercise. Even if I still held my position in the end, I gained a much better understanding of those on the other side.

Actually, there are usually multiple “sides” to any issue or argument. You know, like that proverbial accident viewed from different positions in the intersection?

As a result of my debating experience I get a little suspicious of those who refuse to see the various sides to an issue always insisting there’s only one right way to see everything.
The truth: Events and issues are seldom black and white but rather abound in complexity. Insisting on interpreting events and issues through a myopic viewpoint is as dangerous as going the wrong way on a one-way street.

3. Rumors deflect away from truth

It wasn’t too long ago a rumor that was burning up the Internet and filling everyone’s inbox with forwarded messages revolved around the P&G logo and company executives.

Rumormongers insisted the logo was filled with Satanist imagery, that company profits supported the devil’s causes, and that some executives worshiped Satan.

None of it was (or is) true.

But even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the rumor persisted for decades. I’m sure that there exist pockets of wrong-believers who still cling to the idea that the rumors were indeed true. Nothing will dissuade them from their port-hole wrong-headed view.

Sadly, starting a rumor or making a false accusation are easy while countering them is arduous. This shouldn’t be the case.
The truth: Rumors and its cousins -- hearsay, gossip, speculation, and innuendo -- will always bear false witness to the truth. Slander and libel are founded on rumors and false assertions. Rumors must always give way to facts.

4. Ignoring context leads to wrong conclusions

A minister told an anecdote recounting what a senior member of a congregation had alleged to have seen.

Esther, a bit of a biddy, reported to anyone who would listen that she had witnessed Eddie, the president of the church youth group, smoking by the school. She was outraged and poor Eddie was scandalized. At least until their pastor brought context to the situation and confronted Esther.

It was true that Esther saw Eddie standing near the school with his hands up to his face and what looked like smoke coming from his mouth. It was a cold day and he was waiting for his parents to pick him up after band practice. While he waited, he was idly fiddling with his trumpet mouthpiece and warming his hands blowing “smoke” through the mouthpiece.

Had Esther paid attention to the context of Eddie’s character, the fact that his trumpet case was at his feet, and knowing as she did that Eddie was in the school band and was not a smoker, she may not have jumped to a wrong conclusion. Unless that’s what she really wanted to do.
The truth: Context is king! Too narrow of a focus or personal agendas will block out essential facts leading to a skewed understanding. A broad, open view is needed to see clearly.

5. Your first impression is probably wrong

Socrates is to have said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” An unexamined life is one that is lived without contemplation or thoughtful consideration.

Information and data pour into our awareness. We skim it all, make snap assessments and quick judgments, and move on. We live, believe, and offer opinions while stuck in our initial knee jerk, bone-headed reaction.

Kind of like looking out your window and thinking that you see a rabbit, when, upon closer examination, it’s revealed to be a chunk of frozen slush fallen from a car.


We eschew the effort of careful examination and avoid taking time to reconsider. We ignore new information and insight. As a result, we become convinced dirty slush is a bunny.

Too often, whatever fits our preconceived notions is all we care to hear, read, or learn. We feed our foolishness and send truth on a holiday while basking in ignorance.
The truth: Refusing to mull, to go deeper into context, and to question ourselves is choosing to operate from willful ignorance. And that is a dangerous place to be in a world that is as complex and troubled as ours. It is also how bias, prejudice, bigotry, false assumptions, and wrong-headed beliefs are created and fueled.

Better living with nuanced thinking!

In the Bible, we are encouraged to be “sober minded” (1 Thessalonians 5:6, Titus 2:6, et al). R. C. Sproul, Jr. explains, “To be sober-minded...is to treat truth seriously and to have a healthy doubt as to our own understanding of truth.”

Being sober minded is practicing nuanced thinking and being willing to engage others without bias, as opposed to flat-line thinking, being hard-nosed, and short-sighted.

The Apostle Peter puts it to us like this: “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:13-15, ESV).

The bottom line is that, especially as Christians, we should eschew lazy thinking and take the time to listen to, learn from, and love those around us, even when we disagree with them.

Sober up! Be smart! Clear off all of the snow! Take the time to discern truth with the Holy Spirit’s help (Romans 12:2).


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Relevant links:

“No one wants to consider that it's not a SKIN issue but that it's a SIN issue.”

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Have you ever realized that you were engaging in faulty thinking? If so, how did you become aware of it and how did you change your attitude? Do you believe there are some issues that do have only one right way of seeing them? What are they? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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