People are ALWAYS surprising us, aren’t they?
Just when you start to think your coworker is ALWAYS a jerk, you find out she volunteers at a nursing home.
Right about the time you think the friend on the opposite side of the political spectrum will NEVER understand, you discover you do have some common ground.
When it comes time for your performance review and you believe there is ZERO CHANCE you’ll get a promotion because your boss never compliments you, you get a great evaluation—and a raise.
You think that ALL Christians are hypocritical, and then you meet one who listens and is compassionate and humble.
It’s as if we treat people like clickbait articles—using all caps and extreme words so that we can be shocked by their horrible behavior. But then we find out some information that makes us realize they aren’t ALL bad. In 1957 a social psychologist named Leon Festinger wrote “A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance” to explain how we get uncomfortable when we learn new information that contradicts our current beliefs. When people face this inconsistency, they would rather avoid truth or other opinions because it would make them feel even more uncomfortable.
We get that, don’t we? Instead of looking at people as individuals, we label them by their political opinions or religious beliefs or race or ethnicity or appearance. Using words like ALWAYS and NEVER, we box people in to our set of preconceived ideas. And we surround ourselves (in person and on social media) with people who think exactly like us. We slowly end the relationships with those who are different or think differently. Because it’s easier. Because it’s more comfortable.
For Christians, we have an amazing opportunity right now. As the noise level in the world keeps rising and people are using extreme words to describe others and cognitive dissonance seems to be at an all-time high, we have the peace that goes beyond all understanding. With an eternal view of this world, the troubles of this world might concern us, but they don’t consume us.
Yes, maybe your coworker is a jerk. And you’ve been given the patience to turn the other cheek.
Yes, maybe your politics do separate you. And you remember you have a King in heaven.
Yes, maybe your boss never compliments you. And you already have the acceptance of your Father; what can mere mortals do to you?
Yes, maybe some Christians have hurt you. And you can forgive as you’ve been forgiven and still serve the way God has prepared for you in the body of Christ.
You can do ALL things through Christ who ALWAYS strengthens you and will NEVER leave you or forsake you. Blessed are the peacemakers.
For more straight talk about being careful about the words ALWAYS and NEVER, check out this week’s Your Time of Grace video by Pastor Enter.
Many eons ago, Linda Buxa graduated with a double major, one of which was psychology. This means she recalled learning about cognitive dissonance, but still had to look it up.