“I KNEW it!”
“See …what did I tell you?!?!”
“There it is …it’s EXACTLY what I thought it was!”
These are some of the most satisfying thoughts and phrases in human existence. Nothing makes us feel more secure in the world around us, than for all of our assumptions about something to be reinforced. We get to rest securely in the world we’ve created and we don’t have to grapple with any complication.
I contend one of the reasons we talk so much about Hitler, is because he’s easy to stereotype. We don’t have to think about Hitler, or wrestle with anything in his character. He’s a monster; maybe the worst person who ever lived. We’re not like him. We share nothing in common. He’s a guide post as to what NOT to be. End of story.
As humans, we often need for everything (and everyone) to be as simple, and as easy to asses, as Hitler. We need people and circumstances to be that cut and dried. The problem is most things in life are not as simple as Hitler.
I am amazed at how often we now jump to conclusions about everything. The easily accessed information floating around the internet can allow anyone to bolster their already deeply-held beliefs, with the click of a link. And while we are all aware of how much complete hogwash is being written and shared, somehow we refuse to believe we have just read any of it.
This scenario plays out upside-down and backwards, almost every minute of every day, these days. Sometimes we get so invested in a belief, that we cannot WAIT for the proof. We KNOW it’s out there. It also works in reverse. We are so convinced something IS NOT true, that we will gobble down whatever news calories we are fed, no matter how lacking in nutrition they may be.
Months ago, Senator John McCain was being lambasted by many people (some were my very own friends) on social media for acting like “an idiot” during a congressional hearing. He was making no sense and stuttering and his words were trailing off into babbling. I read post after post (from seemingly “loving” people) about how he was becoming a disgrace or too old to keep doing his job. “What’s with this guy? Is going crazy?” was a common theme.
As it turns out, Mr McCain had a brain tumor. And that is why he was acting the way he was. If we had simply waited for more information, and not jumped to conclusions, we would have understood. That doesn’t mean we would magically agree with Mr McCain on everything. But it does mean we wouldn’t conflate a brain tumor with a disagreement in policy. And there’s where the rub seems to be these days.
Every little thing that happens in the world must have bigger implications or point to the conclusion upon which we have already jumped. If you hate Trump, you’ll find fault in every move he makes …even the innocent mistakes. If you love him, you’ll find an excuse in his every misstep …even the big ones. And THIS is how tensions rise and arguments escalate. It’s also how we start comparing people to Hitler. Because we need them to be that simple.
A year ago today, Joel Osteen’s church in Houston was under fire for not taking in flood victims. As fate would have it, while I was watching people pile on Mr Osteen online, I happened to be hanging out with one of his friends …that very day. It was interesting to watch the juxtaposition of people acting like third-graders on social media, while in real time, watching someone actually TEXT Joel.
Needless to say, what was being reported WAS NOT what was happening. The anti-Osteen chorus was rising and telling the tale of how he was refusing to get his hands dirty to help the people of Houston. While that story was being told and believed, my friend was getting texts about all the meetings he was in with local authorities, and all the safety assessments they were doing of the building.
“I keep telling him the PR is killing him,” she said, casually. “But he just told me the city is mainly looking for beds and showers …which his church does not have. So he and his staff are trying to help them find what they need.”
The truth was actually in the middle. Osteen was indeed NOT opening his church. That part was true. But it wasn’t for the reasons people thought. His church wasn’t a desirable place for what was actually needed.
On and on this went, and it was fascinating to watch and listen to.
In the end, if you love Joel Osteen, you didn’t believe he would turn anyone away. If you hate Joel Osteen, it didn’t surprise you he would do such a selfish thing. And neither side probably cared much about the facts on the ground, as they were actually playing out. Both sides just needed their assumptions reinforced. Because that is easier than having to deal with complication and nuance. The truth often requires us to say, “you know what? I actually get that. I suppose that makes sense.”
I don’t hold myself up as some sort of beacon of objectivity. I too jump to conclusions and have beliefs I want proven to be true. But there are some pretty good rules of thumb, when it comes to information, I’ve learned over the years:
1. Always assume your side could be wrong.
Being a lock-step soldier for your belief system can put you in peril of being on the wrong side of something, and having to back-pedal for the rest of your life. If I want to believe something, I try to hold that belief to a tougher standard than the belief I’m rejecting.
2. Don’t allow your identity to be wrapped up in a person or an institution.
People are human. They all fail. Some of them fail spectacularly. And the institutions they create are imperfect. If you find yourself constantly defending a PERSON or a group of people, rather than an idea or a concept, you will eventually have egg on your face. Because I promise you on a stack of bibles …nothing and no one is as perfect as you want it – or them- to be.
3. Don’t completely believe the news until you have THREE sources, from THREE differing news outlets.
I don’t share news links. I just don’t. I’ve seen too much news get written wrong. I take it all in and weigh it against what else is being reported. I’ve often said, these days …we have to triangulate the truth. Even then, we may not completely get to it.
When President Trump says “fake news is the enemy of the people” he is actually correct …whether you hate him or love him. News that isn’t fully vetted, but that bolsters certain belief systems, is our enemy. Because it brings out the worst in us. It causes us to jump to conclusions that may or may not be true. And it eventually turns us into babbling fools, who don’t know which way is up.
And once you get there, jumping in any direction, to any conclusion …is dangerous.
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4 thoughts on “JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS …”
We are all guilty of jumping to conclusions and generalizing at some point in our lives. I try to stay neutral if I don’t have the facts. It can be very dangerous to fall into a mob-type mentality.
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I’ve spent 30 years trying, the operative word, to teach people this. When it comes to something they are highly vested in, the training goes out the window. We are what we believe. Thank you, Regie.
This sounds like the pilot episode of “The Newsroom” a few years back. If you haven’t watched this 3 season show, look it up and watch- Aaron Sorkin is just a brilliant writer. Even just watch the first 10 minutes of the pilot- captivating.
I digress- “The Newsroom” focused on this issue on and off for 3 years, including the impact and responsibility of their station reporting false news. But their mantra from the very beginning is to only report the truth that has been verified by multiple sources. As they repeatedly quoted Thomas Jefferson, “The greatest danger to democracy is an uninformed (or misinfomed) electorate”