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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “The End in Friend”
In this episode, Rainbow Dash and Rarity, triggered by an argument as to the validity of their friendship when they seemed to have nothing in common, ended up quite upset at one another and their hostility threatened to drive a wedge between them. To try and get the two to find common ground, Twilight suggested that they use one thing they mutually liked, reading, to do a book swap with one another in an attempt to get them to abandon their squabbling and reconnect.
However, both were mad at each other and, as many foolishly do, worked to keep their grudge going instead of turning toward reconciliation. Rather than even actually read the assigned book, let alone put any effort into the exercise to try and understand one another, both simply made a preconceived judgment about the selections that justified their own opinions, stood behind it, and even defended it as genuine criticism. At that point, one could hardly even argue that they had an opinion that was defendable. It was simply unreasonably hating something to begin with and shutting out any attempt to get them to think otherwise. Frankly, it was an act of being pigheaded on both of their parts.
There’s an urban lingo term thrown out around a lot nowadays…the idea of being “woke”. The term is a throwback to the movie “The Matrix” in which the majority of people on Earth are blind to the fact they are living out a digital computer simulation while being kept in suspended animation, and that when they “wake up” they become aware of how the world really is. What it means to actual society is the idea of someone becoming aware of how something really works or is when society/media/others say it functions a different way. (It’s somewhat analogous to the older term: “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid”, implying not to just go with the flow and buy into whatever people tell you about something.) Often this applies to cases of alleged racism, sexism, political bias, classism, etc.
Among the millennial generation, of which I am a member, “being woke” is a prized status symbol. Being woke, or aware of an incident of racism, sexism, political bias, classism, etc., that was “cleverly disguised” as being fully innocuous or normal, is considered to be a high point for one’s intellect. A person is smart enough to see the proverbial man behind the curtain. They are enlightened enough to realize what this is doing to other people. Most importantly, they are upstanding enough to present this “horrendous evil” to society so that it can be rooted out, and even better if they organize large public outcry about it. In other words, while on the surface this may appear to be purely public action or protest, it’s also a very uplifting and personally gratifying thing for those involved as it demonstrates to others how much more aware, upstanding, forward-thinking, and proactive they are.
The left gets the most flak for this nowadays, but really I’ve seen it on both sides of the political spectrum. (Honestly? If you want to see more of one or the other just get the opposite party into the White House…) To me, it all stems from the same thing I’ve hit on before: modern Internet culture. Everyone believes their opinion is worth more than it is and prizes people responding to it. The best way to make your opinion stand out is if it’s unique; and the easiest way to get it to be unique is to find some wrong in the world, whether it’s there or not, and shout about it.
I’m not trying to make the case that all of this is unjustified. Furthermore, the fact that a minority of people are particularly loud and even violent about it is no excuse for the majority of people to remain apathetic. What I am wanting to draw attention to, however, is how many of these individuals justify themselves; which ties into this episode. No one really cares about a fact that “is mostly correct, but occasionally doesn’t apply” or an injustice that’s only alleged. Likewise, no one wants to point out that they formed an opinion on something which is better in some ways and worse than others compared to what’s happening right now. People want to be right. They want to be fully justified. They want to have the one answer. They want to be the side that’s on top of things and not the side that’s stupid and clueless.
That leads to how modern debate goes about these sorts of things, if you can even call it that. Protesters, demonstrators, and proponents of an idea have no interest whatsoever in pointing out where their particular idea falls a little flat, talking about the tradeoffs, or seeing if there’s an element of their idea that applies and not the rest–let alone compromise. They don’t bother with the opposite side, and, in most people’s minds, they don’t have to. They believe they’re right already and that the other is wrong.
In this situation, when someone believes they are in the right and has some animosity toward an opposing viewpoint, debating with them usually not only doesn’t work but can’t work. That’s because people ignore anything good about the opposing viewpoint and embrace every bit of criticism and bad they can find and form their whole mental framework around that. Everything else is mentally excluded at the point of hearing it. Through a series of logical fallacies, they pardon away all other evidence that opposes their view and cement so much in their minds that such is reality that eventually they deceive themselves into thinking there isn’t an alternative viewpoint at all…just idiots who know nothing and people like themselves who are “woke”.
Worse yet, they do just the opposite with favorable evidence for their own point of view and let it all in without filtering or judgment. This is even if it’s based on nothing or is a bold-faced lie. I see this all the time on social media. As you may have guessed, I’m a conservative by nature as is most of my family, but some of the things they re-post as supposed “bombshells” or breaking reports are blatant misinformation. Some are clear photoshops while others are statistics that were pulled out of thin air or outright made-up fables. I don’t really care if they supposedly “support” my viewpoint when they’re blatant, obvious lies, as that not only doesn’t support my viewpoint but casts my viewpoint into doubt for people at large, but they go ahead and post them anyway simply because it justifies their thinking. And since they’re right, then anything that supports their view, even if it’s nothing but tripe, must also be right. Meanwhile, any genuine article that is against their viewpoint, even if backed with proper information and source, is either excused away or declared “just a lie”. It must be fake, because it doesn’t support their view, and therefore isn’t worth even considering.
As I’ve said several times before, we do not see the world as it is but as we are. If we choose to see something as good we will tend to overlook anything bad associated with it, whereas if we choose to see something as bad we will ignore anything good associated with it…all so that it perfectly fits our view of it. We’ll even claim the same is reality as I just illustrated. This sort of delusional thinking can lead to a lot worse than angry social media blogs and protesting. It can lead to totally warped senses of reality and even violent actions; all of which are assumed to be appropriate and justified. (Look no further than a group like Antifa, who prides themselves as being against any form of hate, violence, and intolerance…and uses hate, violence, and intolerance to supposedly “combat” the same.)
For the Christian, while there is always an element of social justice and a need to call out sin, in particular in individuals who are trying to justify themselves or behaviors for society at large, Lord Jesus had an emphasis on personal holiness and resolving the sin in one’s own life first. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5) This was especially true for those who claimed to be justified or “holy” without acknowledging their own evils and wrongdoing (see Matthew 23:1-33 for a lengthy condemnation of the self-righteous by Jesus). In the preceding passage, when taken with the Gospels as a whole, I want to point out that the priority is not so much on not condemning evil, but instead in being cognizant of one’s own evil as well. To not be so meticulous about finding what others are doing wrong that you ensure you are blind to what you yourself are doing wrong.
And that makes sense, because ultimately the only people we ever have control over is ourselves. And only to the degree that we are mature and complete will we be able to see not only the world clearly but also form relationships with others that are mature and complete, including with God. Most importantly, we will only see truth in regards to how much we keep our “lenses” free of warping, including truth God is trying to reveal to us.
Odds are if you ever hear criticism about your opinions or even behavior, your instincts are going to be to not take it well even if it’s justified. Particularly if it’s about a strong political or moral opinion you have. Admitting to yourself and acknowledging that you probably won’t like what you are about to hear can go a long way toward resolving your own bias; even if you don’t end up agreeing with it in the end. Owning up and taking control of one’s feelings and prejudgments is not only an important standard for a Christian, but for any mature adult. That means using our reason and self-discipline to realize when we truly see something that either supports or counters our strong opinions and when we are simply selectively listening to the messages that we want to hear, no matter how pleasant or unpleasant.
And that’s the kind of “woke” we could all stand to be.
Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for your Word, which emphasizes the need to never be so preoccupied with recognizing evil in others that we fail to recognize it in ourselves first. Where I have grown blind, ignorant, or have ‘fallen asleep’ in regards to my own wrongdoing or lack of ‘rightdoing’, please help me to awaken to that and enact the changes I need to make to better serve you and others. No matter how painful and uncomfortable it may be. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.