02 January 2017

A plea for greater discernment

Tune your ears to the world of Wisdom;
set your heart on a life of Understanding.
-Proverbs 2 (MSG)

Many Americans felt that 2016 was a particularly terrible year. A political changing of the guard, oft-publicized episodes of violence, and the loss of many familiar celebrities dominated our thinking and emotion.

In our social media world, one of the things that often seemed evident was our national lack of discernment. Too many of us have abandoned scalpel-sharp insight for bludgeoning hammers of information, even when that information may be false. We convince ourselves of the truthfulness of what we read when it conforms to our narrative without bothering to discern what is true. Whether on the political right or left, we allow truth to be determined by our preferred media outlets while at the same time castigating those who oppose us. And it is to our shame.

Unfortunately, for many of us this lack of discernment shows up in our every day lives as well. We have a narrative for life and we actively seek sources that support our narrative. Psychologists call this a confirmation bias. We favor information that bolsters our preconceptions while either ignoring or flat out denying incongruous information.

Sadly, this can have profound effects upon relationships as well. In some cases, people are more willing to abandon relationships, even long-standing ones, than to try to apply wisdom, insight, or discernment into determining what is true. Rather than seeking after wisdom and truth, they seek counsel from those who will parrot their preconceptions.

Considering this, here are a few things to think about:
1) Seek humility. We should develop the habit of asking the question, "is it possible that I'm wrong?"
2) Actively listen to those with whom you disagree. Even if you ultimately continue to disagree, a willingness to listen serves you well.
3) Pursue long-term relationships. Acquaintances often cannot provide informed counsel because they know neither you, nor the situations you are facing. If the people you are listening to never disagree with you or challenge you, they are not a friend, they are an echo chamber. Seek deep relationships with people who are willing to pursue both truth and love with you.

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