In the mid 90’s, researchers conducted a study on the connection between sugar and hyperactivity in children… at least that’s what they told the parents they were studying. All the children were given a drink, then parents were asked to rate their behavior. Half the parents were told that their children had been given a high dose of sugar. These parents rated their children as much more hyper than the parents in the control group. Of course, both groups of children had been given the same sugar-free drink.
Expectation alters perception. Those parents were convinced that their children were all hopped up on sugar, so that is what they saw. We almost always see what we expect to see. Everywhere we look, we find evidence to support our existing beliefs.
Tony Campolo once said that ultimately people believe what they want to believe. It’s something I can readily accept about other people, but somehow I prefer to think of myself in another category. Others may be prone to delusion, but I only believe what is true and right and sure.
So, in the spirit of this post and the Christmas season, I decided to debunk some of my own false beliefs. I googled “Christmas myths” and sure enough, I found a few surprises.
–Pointsettas are dangerously poisonous, especially to young children. This has been proven false. At worst, they are mildly toxic, causing irritation of the mouth and some vomiting, but 9/10 people experience no negative effects. So chow down, there’s nothing to fear! After years of obsessively moving these flowers up high (even at other people’s houses) I can finally relax.
–The suicide rate increases significantly during the Christmas season. Also not true… in fact, it is spring and summer that are most dangerous. That said, I realize that the holidays are a difficult time for many. All those family gatherings can be a huge stress, both for those who are alone and for those who wish they were. Which brings me to the Christmas homicide rate… I wonder?
–The abbreviation X-mas is a plot by evil secularists to take “Christ” out of Christmas and a sign of “the times” <-this must be said in a deep, foreboding tone of voice. Now this isn’t a conspiracy I have ever subscribed to, but some in my family do. The truth is, the Greek word for Christ (you know, like in the New Testament, which wasn’t actually written in english btw) starts with an X and has been used as an abbreviation for Christ for centuries.
These are fairly silly beliefs, nothing life-changing, but what about the big things? How can we know anything when our own preconceptions colour how we interpret everything? Lately I’ve realized that I’m living in a world that is a lot less black and white than I once thought it was. Some of these biases I have are not holding up to scrutiny. Faith is a little harder, a little riskier, but I’m convinced it is still worth it. It isn’t supposed to be easy anyway.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1)
I think I like Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase the best: “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.” So maybe I’m wrong about some things… okay, definitely – no one tell my kids (or my husband). And maybe I don’t have it all figured out, but I’m trusting in a God who does. That’s what I believe… perhaps because that’s what I want to believe.
So here’s me, eating a big helping of humble pie (with a pointsetta garnish).
Whether it is silly or life altering, have you confronted a personal bias lately? Have you ever?