Biases are Not Bad – They Just Are

I am a biased person. I don’t hold he word bias in the same negative way others do. I expect it. Bias to me is the lens through which we view the world. It is created by our life experience, by the opinions of people we respect and by our own values and priorities. Bias is a useful thing. Like the ants giving their opinions of what an elephant is, we each speak a limited truth of something larger. We run into trouble when we believe that what we think about something is the whole of it. And we do harm when we speak about what we see as though it were the whole.

This may sound like I have no sense that there is an absolute truth. This is not true, but I believe that no one can know the whole truth at any one time. Even when something seems obvious to us, more is yet to be revealed. There is always another way to look at something. So while I acknowledge my bias, I also try to accept that others, even with their own biases, can help to open me up, to cause a shift in my bias. Your life experience may poke a hole in something I once believed. If I am humble, I will accommodate this new information. My personal bias will shift slightly or broaden, if you will. For example, I may have an opinion on something while being aware that there are exceptions to what I believe to be true. It weakens the power of my opinion a little, but this is okay with me because I find myself being kinder as I share insights with others.

I think it is important to realize that all news reporting is biased and that every history book we read is biased. Even when facts are given, there is bias in which facts are given priority and the manner in which they are shared. I just finished reading a history of the American presidents and was startled by how little was said about the way Native Americans were treated as “Manifest Destiny” played out. While this omission reflects a definite bias, my husband and I just watched a Ken Burns series, “The West” where the experience of the original people was well documented. Both the reading of the book and the viewing of Burn’s series helped shift my bias or world view. Even at 73, I continue to change.

I think that the only thing we can do is to be aware. I try to avoid judgment. When I see people expressing their opinions with anger or fear, I try to accept that there is a reason for this. It is like the ant reporting on the elephant’s large foot -scary if you are an ant and you believe that is all there is to an elephant.

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One Response to Biases are Not Bad – They Just Are

  1. Cathy says:

    Good reminder of this lifelong journey we’re on to become more fully human and loving!

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