Job 20-21 – INSIDE OUT – THE MANY FACES OF BIAS – Part 1
Inside Out is a 2015 American 3D computer-animated comedy-drama adventure film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures.
A girl named Riley is born in Minnesota, and within her mind, five manifestations of her emotions—Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear and Anger—come to life. The emotions live in Headquarters, Riley’s conscious mind, where they influence Riley’s actions and memories via a control console.
Heidi Grant Halvorson says, “If you have a brain, you’re automatically biased … The process of perception is, not surprisingly, a biased one. We have loads of biases hardwired into our brains …”
Like the characters from the movie “Inside out” (Pixar and Walt Disney’s animated comedy drama), my biases seek to control my emotions and push buttons and twist knobs to help me, but mostly to hinder me, in my interactions with others and in understanding my world. They are hired and fired at will, but encountered in all areas of life.
A quiet, patient, good-natured person who doesn’t look that unusual on the outside. But dive into the grey matter of my psyche, and you’ll find, hiding behind the shelves of my attitudes, lurking in the forests of my subconscious, and taking shape in the clouded dreams of my imagination, the many faces of my biases.
I wonder what would happen if our negative biases completely took over the controls of our thinking? It seems Zophar has a control problem with his biases and treats Job badly.
Job has already objected to this kind of treatment, “One should be kind to a fainting friend, but you accuse me without any fear of the Almighty. My brothers, you have proved as unreliable as a seasonal brook…” (Job 6:14-17 NLT).
Who are the characters of bias? What can I do to redirect the power of negative bias into something that lines up with what God intends for my life?
DARREN, THE DEFECTIVE DOCTOR (Selective Bias and Myside Bias)
I am suffering at the moment with a cold; coughing and spluttering and my brain feels like it is packed tightly in sponge and being bounced down the slope of a mountain. I love it when people pray for my healing. These are the encouraging words of life that wash over my soul and bring God’s healing grace.
- A Patient Re-Examination rather than a Hasty Diagnosis
When Darren is at the controls at Headquarters, Zophar is the kind of Doctor who gets it wrong by making up his mind too quickly and stubbornly, pursuing the wrong course of treatment? He interprets Job’s symptoms to favour and confirm his own misconstrued diagnosis, beliefs and faulty assumptions (Selective Bias). I don’t want the difference between amputation and ointment to be dependent on Darren.
Dante Alighieri in the Divine Comedy says, “opinion—hasty—often can incline to the wrong side, and then affection for one’s own opinion binds, confines the mind” (Quoted in Wikipedia).
In utter frustration, Job says to his friends, “As for you, you smear me with lies. As physicians, you are worthless quacks. If only you could be silent! That’s the wisest thing you could do. Listen to my charge; pay attention to my arguments” (Job 13:4-6 NLT).
Whenever I refuse to search for why my initial ideas about a person may be wrong, I hamper my ability to investigate for the truth in a more neutral, forensic and spiritually unbiased way. A patient re-examination of my biases in the light of God’s Word gives me greater perspective. Then I can decide what attitudes should be challenged to effect internal change.
Overcoming negativity is a daily commitment to be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, a willingness to be educated in the ways of God, a daily habit of guarding against negative bias, adjusting my thinking, seeking to see the bigger picture from God’s perspective and allowing Him to remove the internal obstacles along the way.
- Open-Mindedness Rather than Narrow Thinking
Zophar lacks an “active open-mindedness,” (Myside bias). Like an Audiologist with a hearing problem, the sound of Job’s arguments are not getting through to the inner ear. There’s build-up of Myside Bias wax in the auditory canal. He is not paying attention and his lack of concern is eroding the quality of his relationship with Job.
By open-mindedness, I am not saying that we accept everything, but a willingness to look at things from as many angles as possible before coming to a conclusion, especially when it comes to relationships. Am I seeking to look for the best rather than the worst in people. Don’t be bullied by Darren into limited thinking.
- Responsible Compassionate Service rather than Impulsive Bias-Driven Rhetoric
Job would love one of his friends to pray for his healing or ask how to help. That obviously hasn’t occurred to Zophar as yet. Zophar just wants to put in his two cents worth. He is just as intractable as the last time he spoke. He says in Job 20:2-3 (NLT) “I must reply because I am greatly disturbed … my spirit prompts me to reply.” And then he unloads on Job.
Ever said this? It’s a lie. The truth is I don’t have to reply just because I feel an impulsive urge to say something because I am annoyed, defensive, or angry. In fact, that is probably the best time to leave things unsaid. Zophar is out of line and it would have been better if he had been out of words.
Am I more inclined to have an impulsive bias-driven response for why a person suffers or am I the person who asks “What can I do to help?” The answer to that question will test my understanding of compassion. Be determined to live a life of service rather than question the integrity of those who suffer. Invest in others by speaking words of life.
CONNOR, THE CHARACTER ASSASSINATING CURRENT-AFFAIRS INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST (Generalisation Bias and Jumping-to-Conclusions Bias)
- Get The Full Story rather than Rely on Skewed Perceptions
The evidence is skewed by his hasty generalizations based on insufficient evidence. Zophar has obtained his newsbreaking story but refuses to investigate for the truth. He refuses to think of all the variables.
The words of the song “Oh, Lord, only the good die young” are reversed by Zophar. His headline is, “Only the Wicked Die Young.” His argument goes like this, “the triumph of the wicked has been short-lived and the joy of the godless has been only temporary?” (Job 20:5 NLT). In other words, Job you’re about to die before your time, so you must be wicked. Very encouraging! Very wrong!
Job suggest that Zophar takes a good look around him. It is obvious that what he is saying isn’t true. It is nonsense to say that the wicked die young. Job points out that often they “prosper, growing old and powerful… And yet they say to God, ‘Go away. We want no part of You and Your ways. Who is the Almighty, and why should we obey Him? What good will it do us to pray?’” (Job 21:7,14 NLT).
All Zophar has to do is look around to see that what he is saying isn’t true. Abel disproves his theory. Sometimes the righteous do die young. And years later so will Jesus. Zophar, like Connor, is spouting theories that don’t have any backing in real life or in the Truth handed down to him concerning his faith.
What could be happening in this picture? Who do I need to talk to? What evidence do I have that may be flawed? Perceptions have as much power as reality. Avoid sweeping statements and generalizations arising from taking an anti-stance on life.
- Humility to Admit I May be Wrong rather Than Overconfident Conclusions
Like negative newspaper editors, Job’s friends have an excessive amount of confidence in their own conclusions about Job (overconfidence effect). They will print the story as they see fit. They think they are 100% right. At the end of the book, God calls them to account for their slanderous narrative.
Like an impatient paratrooper who has jumped too early, do I leap to the wrong conclusions and land in the wrong field entirely at key moments of communication? When I exercise humility, and admit that I could be wrong, I am more likely to see things I may have missed. Adjust my thinking to looking for the best rather than the worst.
CARL, THE CONFUSED CLAIRVOYANT (Mind Reading and Fortune-Telling Bias)
- Optimism rather than Pessimism
Acting as mind readers, Job’s friends are over-influenced by Carl and give Job a malicious appraisal and predict a negative future. They predict, “No one will remember you. … thrust from light into darkness, driven from the world … neither children nor grandchildren, nor any survivor in the place where you lived … God’s anger will descend …”
Zophar is great with his analogies but a bit GROSS. He says in effect, like the wicked, Job will fade away and be forgotten, “thrown away like their own DUNG….They will VOMIT the wealth they swallowed. God won’t let them keep it down.” (Job 20:7,15 NLT).Their children will beg on the streets and die young.
He virtually accuses Job of oppressing the poor and destitute, of being greedy and never satisfied. He hasn’t read Job 1 obviously. He looks at Job and says, “This is the reward that God gives the wicked. God’s anger will descend on them in torrents” (Job 20:28-29 NLT).
Nice one Zophar! Slap a man while he is down and heap on him a curse while you are at it. Rather than gathering around a crystal ball of retribution, it would be good if the prayer meeting for their sick friend started sometime soon, but it’s nowhere on the horizon.
But then, I’m not sure I would want to receive the sort of prayers these guys have to offer – full of judgment and curses.
I am not ruled by what might happen. Give no place to Carl at the controls of Headquarters, trying to predict the worst possible scenarios based on “What if…” especially when I am an Ambassador for Christ, speaking at times about spiritual issues to my hurting friends.
I am an instrument of Christ’s hope when I look for the best outcomes based on God’s mercy in turning cursing to blessing. I can create a legacy for the next generation based upon God’s Word. Nothing is impossible with God, especially when I refuse to allow my biases to sabotage my relationships and my attitudes. I determine to build my perceptions on the truth of God’s word so that I can find the solutions, not just the problems.
It’s not a sweet cartoon about character that is taking place in Job. Sin is biased towards negativity, painting a blacker picture of my world, creating clouded memories and dysfunctional relationships. Christ died for my sin and the fruit of the Holy Spirit gives perspective to biases.
“… the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT).
Christ is the only competent person I can trust at the controls of Headquarters.
Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV).
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2 NLT).