Bias is something many people talk about, but rarely admit to in serious situations. A news organization accuses another news organization of being biased, but never entertains the idea they may be guilty themselves. In politics accusations of bias are thrown out left and right. Often these accusations are not based on any evidence and are only levied because the information or data does not support their side. Instead of addressing the claims head on a candidate or political party will accuse journalists and studies that were conducted as being biased. They can get away with this because there are many people and organizations in politics who are biased.
Rampant biases in politics is one things, but being biased is something that affects us all. We are biased towards all kinds of things. We are biased towards politics, religion, our families, our sports teams, etc. Being biased is not the problem. This is something we all struggle with. It becomes a problem when we fail to recognize that we have biases, and fail to do something about them.
Recognizing biases is not always easy. We form various allegiances over a lifetime and we view situations through the lens of these allegiances. Let me give an example that will hopefully not make too many people upset.
Last week Oklahoma State University played the University of Texas in a game of football. It was an exciting and close game. Both teams led at various parts of the game. With two minutes left and down by two Texas got the ball back. They marched down the field and were on the one yard line trying to make it into the end zone. They hiked the ball and went right up the middle. The referee called a touchdown and that seemed to be the end of the ballgame. When the replay was shown two things were evident. The player from Texas fumbled the ball, and he never made it into the end zone with the football. The officials reviewed the play, but determined the call on the field stood simply because there was not enough video evidence to overturn it. The fumble was clear, but the video did not show who recovered it so the ruling on the field had to stand.
What has been interesting is to see how various people have interpreted this situation. Some have suggested that there was no fumble at all. Others have suggested that there was a fumble and OSU clearly recovered. Some want to deny history, while others want to go back and change history. Why do people do this? Because they view the situation through different lenses. They have different allegiances and this causes them to see things differently. Each person believes what they see and they think they are telling the truth, but those without biases see something completely different.
I use the example of football because it is less serious than most other biases we possess. Biases are dangerous because they skew our perspective of what really happened. I do not believe that most people are being dishonest when they report something incorrectly due to a bias they have. They believe what they see. This makes biases even more dangerous because they are harder to recognize. We believe what we see and hear even though it may not be completely accurate. We are simply biased.
Being biased about the outcome of a football game is not that important, but being biased about faith or things that may be affecting your family is extremely important. We need to know the truth, not just our version of the truth. Truth helps us to become a better person, and it allows us to make better decisions in our lives. We live in a world full of biases, but what we desperately need is the truth.
Everyone has biases, so how do we deal with the biases we already have? Let me suggest a couple of ways we can address this issue.
Confession – The first thing we need to do is confess that we have biases and be aware of the problem. If you think you are the only one with the truth and everyone else has it wrong, then it is time for you to confess. Biases blind us to reality and we are not going to be able to deal with the problem until we confess.
We need to recognize our allegiances - Once we have confessed we have problem, we then need to identify the areas of our life where this problem is most influential. Our biases come from allegiances we have. It could be allegiance to a religion, political party, school, philosophy, family or family member, etc. We have multiple allegiances that we have formed over the years and we need to identify these so we know where we are most vulnerable. Once we have done this, we then need to shift our main allegiance to Jesus. Once we care more about Jesus, who teaches us to value honesty, than our other allegiances will begin to change.
Be slow to speak – Our biases tend to come out most when we do not filter what we are about to say. Biases are tied to our emotions. We feel an emotional tie to whatever our allegiance is to. We want to automatically defend it or make it look good. If Jesus is at the center of our life, then we should have the upmost respect for truth, and we will be careful about allowing biases to influence our speech.