Elephant
Elephant
Elephant

Elephants Are Heavier Than People
It's a Fact

Some things are a matter of opinion. Is the café down the street a good place to eat? It depends, some like it. Some don’t.

Other things are just flat out true. For example, elephants are heavier than people. The weight of an elephant does not depend on your perspective. The weight of an elephant is determined by its size and by the law of gravity.

We can be confused about what is flat out true. For centuries people believed the earth was flat, and that the sun revolved around the earth.

Most people have strong views on what is a matter of opinion and what is flat out true.

If the topic is politics, religion, or who is right in a conflict with one’s spouse, feelings are likely to be intense.

As we think and talk about these kinds of issues, we are likely to engage in what is called motivated reasoning. Motivated reasoning means that we are likely to discredit ideas we don’t agree with while agreeing with ideas that bolster what we already think.

Our brains more easily accept what we already believe, and struggle to process what conflicts with our existing beliefs. We are likely to place anything that disagrees with our preconceived opinions at the back of the line for consideration. Or, we give those ideas no place in line at all.

Our human tendency to engage in motivated reasoning can, if we are not careful, cause us to lose touch with reality. By reality I mean the things that are just flat out true. We're not likely to start thinking that people are bigger than elephants, but we can miss reality in ways that have a greater impact on ourselves and on our society.

Motivated reasoning can also keep us from understanding why other people see things as they do in the areas of life that are in fact a matter of opinion.

Our human hesitations can cloud reality. Some aspects of life may seem too frightening or too painful to accept as real. And when change presses its way into our lives like a slow-moving glacier, our fear of what is different than what we’ve always known can prompt us to metaphorically pull out a hair dryer, turn it to full heat, and point it at the encroaching mountain of ice. In other words, fear of change can lead to a fight with and ultimately, a denial of reality. You can’t melt an iceberg with a hair dryer, but you can try.

Wanting something to be true, needing something to be true, and fearing that the opposite might be what is correct—can all add up to a chosen ignorance of what is accurate, real, and right.

Often, it’s not that truths are beyond our grasp, it’s that we’re committed to the blinders we wear, and we don’t want to take the time to stop and think about what we believe we already understand.

One way I try to make sure I’m staying in touch with reality is choosing to listen to opposing views and to really think about positions that are different from my own. I try to look at facts objectively. I try to force myself to see things from another point of view. This includes, for example, considering the possibility that my wife might be right and I might be wrong on a particular issue. Such considerations don't always cause me to change what I think, but sometimes they do.

Regardless of whether my view on a particular issue changes, a willingness to at least try to look at the other side of things frequently leads to a better grasp of reality and to a better understanding of another individual or group of people.

Looking at the other side does not come without effort, and changing my view on something can be downright painful, but being out of touch with reality and being unable to put myself in another person’s shoes is not how I want to live.

I have to admit that some days this is more a goal than a practice, but it is something I believe in and try to come back to when I have forgotten the principle.

I don't want to be so open-minded that my brains fall out, but I am uncomfortable with anyone who never changes what s/he thinks, even when exposed to new information.

What if we were all willing to follow the truth wherever it leads?

Tim Sledge Copyright © September 2018