May 18, 2010

Jellybeans of Righteousness

Posted in How to be Right tagged , , , , , at 2:08 PM by E. M.

THIS IS YOUR MIND . . . YOUR SWEET, DELICIOUS MIND.

The point of our existence; the meaning of life – is to be like God so that we can be one with God and share in God’s perfection and joy.  The Bible details the mechanics and methodology of this concept, and we will begin exploring them a few posts from now, but as we did when discussing and identifying the First Cause, I want us to understand the process of being more like God through logic, reason, and systematic analysis (hey, that sounds like a great subtitle for a blog!)

God’s nature is Right and Just.  In order to be like God, we would have to be right and just.  God is always and completely Right and Just because He has all the information in existence.  We do not have all the information in existence.  Individually, we only have some of the information in existence.  So the best we can hope for presently is to be completely right in the small sub-set of knowledge we possess and progressively add additional “right” knowledge.

The problem is that a lot of the information we currently have is not “right”.  Right now you have a set of beliefs in your head about all kinds of things, politics, religion, social welfare, health, economics, the best place to get a good steak (that would be Jockos in Nipomo, California by the way), and you are certain that what you believe is correct, otherwise you wouldn’t believe it.  But when we look back over our lives, we will see a litany of things that we once believed were right, but that we later discovered were not.

For example, when I was 16, I was convinced that Tanya Robinson loved me and that she was only dating our high school quarterback in order to make me jealous.  I later realized my error (few girls try to make a second-string line-backer jealous).

Nevertheless, at the time we held our presently acknowledged “wrong beliefs”, we were absolutely sure that they were right.  Thus it is logical to assume that some, if not many, of the things that we now believe right, are actually wrong, and we may be convinced of their wrongness at a future date (except for Jockos.  They really do have the best steaks on earth).

So what’s the solution?  Jellybeans! (Stay with me).  Picture your mind as a bowl full of red and blue jellybeans that represent everything you know and believe.  The blue jellybeans represent the beliefs you hold that are right, and the red jellybeans represent the beliefs you hold that are wrong.  So how do you become more right?  Simple, you take out the red jellybeans (wrong thoughts) and replace them with blue ones (correct thoughts).

But we have a problem.  Remember, we think that all the beliefs we currently hold are right, even the ones that are wrong!  We think all our jellybeans are blue.  We’re mentally colorblind.  Now what do we do?

What if I told you that color was not the only difference in the jellybeans?  What if I told you that the red jellybeans all have a tiny bump on them that could only be discovered under careful scrutiny, but all the blue ones were completely smooth?

In this case, the way to make sure you get rid of the red ones and keep (and add) blue ones would be to take EVERY jellybean in the bowl and examine it carefully for the bump.

In the real (non-jellybean) world, this means that in order to be more right, you need to take EVERY thought and belief you hold and actively try to prove it wrong (examine it for the “bump”).  If you can’t prove it wrong, then you can be comfortable that it is right, but if you do prove it wrong, then you discard it and replace it with correct information.  This is called contrastive thinking.  Thinking contrastively involves looking for a flaw in your thought process.  This flaw is usually a contradiction.

The opposite of contrastive thinking is comparative thinking – actively trying to prove yourself right.  The reason that comparative thinking is inferior is because it assumes that all the jellybeans are blue (and we know that is not true), while contrastive thinking presumes the possibility that red beans exist.  Contrastive thinking does not mean that you assume you are wrong.  It means you are wiling to consider the possibility that you could be wrong.

Comparative thinking is the source of just about every conflict.  Think about it, every argument you’ve had with another person is a matter of you thinking that you are right and trying to prove it (comparatively) to someone else who has a different idea but also think that they are right.  You both get angry and frustrated because neither of you are wiling to back down from your position.  Unless someone is willing to admit that they may be wrong, the situation either escalates out of control, or the “we agree to disagree” stalemate is called (which basically means you both just wasted your time).

But imagine if two people in conflict decided to be contrastive instead of comparative.  If two people had a difference of opinion and each person discussed the ways that their beliefs could possibly be wrong, then there would be no conflict, no anger, and no frustration.

Imagine it on a larger scale.  What if every group, religion, or nation that had a conflict with another decided to be contrastive?  What if each side tried to prove their own beliefs, intentions, opinions assumptions and aspirations wrong?  The result would be . . . world peace! (I cannot take credit for this particular piece of brilliance.  I first heard it here),

So with all these nifty benefits, how come people are not more willing to be contrastive?  Because it hurts!  No one wants to think that they are wrong.  We like being right!  It gives us comfort, order, and security.  Plus, it easy!  Even young children easily master the art of comparative thinking.  How many 4-year-olds have you ever heard say, “maybe candy is not my best dinner option”?

Being contrastive takes strength, discipline, and emotional maturity.

There is a term in the Bible for contrastive thinking.  That term is “humility”.  An examination of the Bible will show that God holds humility in high regard for some very important reasons.  We’ll explore them next week.

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