Above the Clouds
Overcoming Negativity Bias
In a recent post, I wrote about our negativity bias—a verifiable neurological/psychological condition—and how it impacts us spiritually.
Afterward I felt a little guilty. Not because anything in the post is wrong, but because I identified a genuine problem without delving into how we can overcome it. And really, what good is knowing a problem if there isn’t much of a solution?
So today is all about getting above that pesky internal bias that magnifies negatives and dismisses positives so easily. Regardless of why it’s there, what can we do about it?
- Relentlessly tell yourself the truth. Preferably out loud. When you catch yourself saying something like, “No one liked my blog post on the symbolism of rainbows and unicorns,” correct yourself. “Well, actually only three people suggested ways to improve it, while several others said they liked it. And they probably meant it, even though I don’t believe them for some reason.” Or maybe you think, “Everybody hates my haircut.” C’mon, tell the truth. Everybody? Really? Or did you just not get as many compliments as you hoped for?” Be honest and stop exaggerating negatives.
- View the skepticism of others skeptically. Yes, I recognize the double standard in that statement, but in this case it’s warranted. Cynicism sounds intellectual but is usually lazy logic. Question unfounded suspicion.
- If you believe the Bible, then actually believe it. Correct your dramatic, sweeping statement—“I’ll never get ahead” or “That always happens to me”—with the vast number of verses that contradict your false assumptions. You know, things like how you’ve been born of God’s own Spirit, are seated with him in places of authority, have an entirely new identity, and already possess a divine nature everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4) if you’ll only believe it. How’s that for a sweeping, positive statement?
- Focus on things that stoke your hopes and your gratitude. You’ll have to train yourself to do this, which takes determination and time. But develop zero tolerance for mental wanderings into those critical, complaining, disappointed places. (I know this downward spiral well and justify it as “being real” or “just being honest.” But it’s usually a skewed perception of what’s real and honest, and not true no matter how much it seems so. If you want to be skeptical and critical about something, start with your misplaced trust in your own perceptions.)
I’ll be honest with you. There are unholy influences in this world that don’t want any of us to experience joy, peace, and fulfillment as God’s children. Don’t let your mind cooperate with them. Don’t get distracted by lies. Partner with God’s Spirit to see as he does—never anxious, always confidently hopeful, always with a positive solution to any problem at hand.
Learn to let your internal bias favor the truth. Learn to look past problems with greater focus on solutions. Learn to “be real” with hope rather than without it. Be honest about your situation, of course—but be honest about what God says about it too. His view of everything is far better than we make it out to be.