Owning Your Bias

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Illustration of blindfolded lady facing front holding and raising up weighing scales of justice set inside circle on isolated background.

Do you think you are an objective person? Most of us probably think we are. Who wants to admit they are biased or prejudiced? I think most of us fancy ourselves to be like lady justice to the left, impartial scales and a blindfold, able to lay aside all bias and render equitable judgments. But are we really impartial? I want to submit that we are more partial than we may realize. It’s not that we are trying to skew the facts, it’s simply part of our sin nature.

If you think you have no bias, tell me this, have you ever watched a sporting event with an avid fan of the other team? How’d that go?  Otherwise seemingly intelligent grown ups lose their minds when you toss athletes and a ball on a field or court. Objectivity gives way to fanaticism.

Last year I was in my car after church one day listening to a football game. The play unfolded, the announcers described the play then said, “Flag on the play. Holding on the offense.” The commentators commenced to doing what they do, debating whether it was actually a hold or not. I found myself joining the conversation. I said, out loud, by myself in the car, “that wasn’t a hold.” To state the obvious, I could not see the play. I know, I’m ridiculous. How in the world did I know? I didn’t know. All I knew is what I wanted to be true.

I’m afraid in our quick publish culture, we take little time to think carefully before we spout off our opinion. This leads to unfounded conclusions. It’s as if our mantra is, “My mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with the facts.” We grab data points from the news cycle only to plot them on our predetermined course in the chosen narrative. Sadly, I’ve seen it over and over again just this past week, on seemingly every side of every story. Due process is viewed as a delay of justice rather than an insurance for justice. We simply react rather than considering the facts. Too often we speak out of ignorance. We know so little yet we have strong opinions; convinced of our rightness. We are often wrong but hardly in doubt.

We have to recognize that presuppositions inevitably influence conclusions. You come to every situation in life with them, be that relationships, the news, the church and even the Bible. We should seek to learn our own presuppositions and biases. Complete objectivity this side of heaven is going to be impossible. Sin impairs objectivity.

What should we do? Here are a few suggestions for thinking through how we process information.

Identify Your Biases. 

We have them. What are they? When controversy arises, ask yourself a few questions.

  • What do I hope is true?
  • Could that hope be influencing how I interpret the data?

Avoid Quick Judgments.

If we have learned anything in the past couple of years, it should be to wait for information before making judgments. In my Greek class in seminary, my professor would drill into us to “suspend judgment” when interpreting a text. Gather information first. By participating in the hash tag frenzy that occurs hours if not minutes after an event, could we be giving credence to a false narrative? False narratives love hash tags.

  • Could you explain the other side of the story? If you can’t, you probably don’t need to propagate the story.

Remember the wisdom of Proverbs 18.17. The one who speaks first seems right until the other side of the story is heard. It’s possible the first person is not telling the truth. Yes, that really happens in our world.

Remember God Judges Impartially 

There is only one judge who has zero partiality (1 Peter 1.17). This side of heaven, we need to work hard to be fair and equitable. But when our sense of justice is offended, it reminds us that we long for true and right justice. A justice where the proud do not stand and the disenfranchised are lifted up. God will make all things right, one day.

Because all are sinners, justice would mean judgment for us all. Thank God that we are shown mercy in Jesus Christ. The judgment of God fell on the Son of God so that God may be both just and justifier. (Rom 3.26) Human, earthly justice is an imperfect shadow of the perfect justice that will reign one day in the lasting city. (Heb 13.14)

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Allen Cagle

About Allen Cagle

Allen serves as the Lead Pastor at Sunrise Community Church in Atlantic Beach, FL, in the Jacksonville area. He graduated from The Master's Seminary (MDiv) in 2005 and is currently working on a DMin degree at Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY. Allen is married to Mindy and has three awesome kids.