“It is very often nothing but our own vanity that deceives us.” – Pride and Prejudice.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is my favorite book. I love it because it is part love story and part social commentary. Here is the short version of the plot: the 19th century British social scene is turned upside down by the interactions and ultimately the marriage of two members of the lower class Bennet family to two aristocratic gentlemen, Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy. Before the union takes place however, there are a series of misunderstandings that are formed between the members of each class towards those of the opposite class based on each person’s own pride and prejudice.
This story speaks volumes to me because it shows me that we can all misjudge another person or a particular situation. Consider this, we are all guilty of letting pride and our own pre-judgments control our lives. It’s called confirmation bias.
Confirmation Bias is a scientific term that refers to a type of selective thinking, “whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one’s beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one’s beliefs.”
Simply put, we learn how something works and then only look for and notice data or find information that suggests our preconceived ideas are right. The bible has a verse for this: “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7) We literally look for confirmation of our thoughts about God, people, love and the world. If our thoughts are good, we will look for and confirm the good in God, people, love and the world. However, if our thoughts are negative, we will look for and confirm the negative in God, people, love and the world.
Example: Someone says to me, “I had a horrible experience with a black/white/Asian guy today in which he stole from me and lied to me.” What I learn from this person is that black/white/Asian people are thieves and liars so in my interaction with the next black/white/Asian person I come across; I will look for those qualities. If I find them, it confirms the initial statement and then a bias towards black/white/Asian people is formed.
This can also be applied to relationships. Let’s say I had a bad relationship in which my boyfriend was a liar and a cheater. I then enter the next relationship looking for signs of lying and cheating. If this happens, it confirms to me that all men are liars and cheaters and can’t be trusted. It will be difficult for me to trust anyone in a future relationship.
Here’s another scenario: I meet a guy that I’m attracted to. I hope that the feeling is mutual so I begin to look for signs of mutual admiration from the other person. A longing look, a deep embrace or a kind, affirming word can all create the illusion that my feelings are reciprocated even if they are not. My beliefs or hopes have created a bias whereby I ignore all of the signs that tell me that these feeling are not reciprocated.
And all of this is rooted in pride. Pride gives us an inflated sense of self. We then put our own ideas and thoughts, including the negative ones, above all things including the truth.
That’s very dangerous because our ideas and thoughts determine our destiny.
That’s why Paul exhorts us un Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me, put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
Our thoughts and ideas will give us peace. But only if these thoughts and ideas are noble, pure, and admirable. And I’m not just talking peace of mind; I mean peace with others as well.
Have you ever seen a person conflicted and without peace? They are controlled by negative thoughts. They think that “others” are against them and wish to do them harm so they look for and confirm only the actions that support their bias.
But Paul states that the “God of peace” will be with us.
Let’s put God back into the equation then! Let’s set a “God bias” to counteract our preconceived one. If we really and truly believe that God is for us, that he loves us and forgave all of our sins, we will look for and confirm his love and forgiveness in everything we do, in every interaction we have with others and every negative thought that comes across our mind.
Here’s how it works:
Confirmation bias #1: “Other races can’t be trusted.”
God bias: “God created me as well as everyone else on the planet. He loves us all and wants us to live at peace with one another. I can live at peace with other races because God is in control, not me.”
Confirmation bias #2: “I was hurt badly in my last relationship and I’m afraid to enter into a new one.”
God bias: “If I trust that God has the best for me, that also includes the best for my relationships. I will trust Him to lead me into the right relationship where He is at the center of it. I will trust Him and not the circumstances of my past.”
Confirmation bias #3: “I really like this person so I’m only going to focus on what I want to happen.”
God bias: “If I trust God, then I will trust his plan for me. Lord, help me to see the truth in every situation knowing that you have a great plan for my life even if I don’t get what I want.”
Trust God. We can’t trust our thoughts, we can’t trust our feelings but we can trust the God of peace to work everything together for our good. That’s called faith. Faith is defined as the confident belief in the truth, value or trustworthiness of a person, idea, thing or deity (God). This belief does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. So when all else seems to confirm a negative thought, belief or action, let your faith guide you to the truth.
MSG: “You’ll do best by filling your minds and mediating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst, the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”