The other day, I was watching a tv show in an attempt to unplug. I wanted to turn off my mind and was having success until I heard one of the characters utter words filled with so much wisdom it killed the mood. What was meant to be an hour of mindlessness suddenly became a homework assignment because now I couldn't help but unpack the words of some jerk of a fictional character who had just called all of humanity onto the carpet.
I was watching an episode of Dr. Who and honestly wasn't paying much attention until I heard the words:
"You know, the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don't alter their views to fit the facts; they alter the facts to fit their views, which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering."
As I replayed those words in my mind, two things happened simultaneously: one, I began to list all the people this applied to; two, I realized that I was on that list. Because at the end of the day, we all have altered the facts to fit our views at some point in time. Whether it be in regards to faith, science, religion, relationships, or politics; no one is immune to this trap.
When we feel passionate about something, it is easy to select only the information that supports our view or opinion instead of looking at things objectively. We see this all too frequently in politics; leaders quote texts out of context, use partial stats that bolster their views, and run ad campaigns that possess subtle twists of the truth. And as a result, we do the same thing.
We live in a culture where we spend so much time pursuing being right; we often wind up being wrong.
For example, I was recently in a conversation with a friend who was harping on the state of Idaho because it is ranked 36th in the category of average household income. He was taking the stance that Idaho is a terrible place to live. I asked him if he realized that while Idaho is one of the lower ranking states in regards to income, it is very desirable for many because of the low cost of living (Idaho weighs in at 4th for low cost of living)? Suddenly his perspective shifted because he had a more accurate picture.
A lot can happen when we get more information than just the stuff that supports our views. A mentor of mine exercises an interesting practice. He looks at what articles, research, and stats people who oppose his views are quoting. As a result, a global perspective is achieved and his understanding of the issues is more comprehensive. Sometimes he stands by the beliefs he began with, but other times, the facts change everything, and he winds up on a different side of a topic than where he started.
Years ago, a heard a man say, "If you ever find yourself in a room where everyone agrees with you, find another room. And if you ever find yourself in a room where nobody agrees with you, shut up and listen."
So I frequently ask myself, "Am I in a room where everyone agrees with me?"
If so, I find another room because there is a good chance the facts have been altered to fit the collective view.
Other times I ask myself, "Am I in a room where nobody agrees with me?"
If so, I try to shut up and listen because there is a good chance I can learn a thing or two.