In the past few weeks, I’ve had two comments on my personal blog that each stirred the same question: “How do we get along when we’ve been wronged?” Or, put in more detail, “How should we respond to people with whom we disagree, or who have hurt us, or we think have sinned against us, or who we think are wrong in some way?”
Neither comment was about me or my posts, so I don’t think my response is “defensive.” Prayerfully, my responses will be constructive and helpful.
The first comment related to one of my four posts on Reformation Sunday. The poster’s comment was about twice as long as my post (there should be some rule, shouldn’t there, that your comment should not be more than 25% of the length of the original post?). More to the point, the post ripped Luther mercilessly. More on this in a moment…
The second comment related to one of my This Week’s Top Five: The Best of the Best on the Net. A commenter shared a link about a pastor whose post I highlighted that week. The link, according to the person who posted it, had one major purpose—to allow people who were hurt by this pastor’s ministry to have a place to share all the failure of this ministry and the pain it caused. More on this in a moment…
I noticed several things in common with both posts. Today, let’s ponder the first: one-sided thinking.
One-Sided Thinking: We See What We Are Looking For
Reading the comments on Luther, and having written my dissertation on Luther’s pastoral counseling, it was easy to tell that the commenter had one-sided thinking. They focused 100% on what they perceived to be Luther’s failures. Looking at Luther exclusively through negative lenses, they could see nothing positive. So they then took even good that he had done or said, and, taking it out of context, made it to be evil.
When I read some of the posts on the link about the pastor, I saw the same one-sided thinking. I don’t know this pastor personally (nor did I know Luther personally, seeing how he died 400ish years before I was born). I have, however, followed his ministry from afar, read his sermons, his books, and know many evangelical leaders who know and respect him. Yet to read these posts, you would think this man was Satan-incarnate. You would think he had never done a godly thing with a godly motive in his entire life.
So my first thought was, we see what we are looking for. Once we decide that someone is wrong, or that they have wronged us, then no matter what they do or say, we look at their life and ministry through a grid that forces us to see evil motives and actions.
When we choose one-sided thinking, we lose our ability to think robustly. I find the same way of thinking with book reviews. As many of you know, I have reviewed nearly 500 books. I try hard to: a) offer a fair and balanced summary of each book, b) suggest strengths in each book, and c) ponder possible weaknesses, or omissions, or suggestions for improvement for each book. I find that some reviewers can’t do this very well, especially when they review a book from someone “outside their camp” or from a group with whom they tend to disagree. All they can find in a book are all the (perceived) negatives.
One-sided thinking results in black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking. And when the one side is a negative side, then all we can see in a person—whether a pastor, an author, a famous historical theologian, or a boss, a friend, or a spouse—is the negative.
I’m not suggesting that we should ignore the weaknesses, or theological errors, or relational offenses of others. Not at all. I am suggesting that one-sided-thinking doesn’t help anyone—not the person doing the thinking or the person being thought and talked about.
I am suggesting that when we think someone is wrong or someone has wronged us, we need, at the very least, to pray that we could have an accurate perspective—both in what we think and in what we say (to that person or others).
The Rest of the Story
There’s much more to say, isn’t there? So there’s more to come in future posts about how to get along when we’ve been wronged or when we think others are wrong.
Join the Conversation
Why do you think we sometimes turn to one-sided thinking? When have you, like me, been guilty of one-sided thinking? How could we overcome one-sided thinking?