What do you see?
I’ve never been the most athletic person, but I’ve always enjoyed playing sports. In school, I was smaller and therefore routinely picked last, or close to last, for teams: not good for a guy’s self-esteem. However, at some point in my 8th grade year, I was playing pickup basketball and a college student said to me, “You’re pretty good… I’m going to pick you to be on my team.” I remember being floored. Still today, I remember his comment and how it was a boost to my sense of worth.
Instead of slowing down to see and encourage someone’s abilities, most interactions these days have a kind of bumper-car quality to them. At work, at home, on the phone, over email: we sort of bounce off of each other while we exchange information, smile or sulk, and move on. In just a few short seconds, we’ve usually assessed a person’s makeup and personality and form a judgment on his or her life, often a negative judgment.
I recently watched a video seminar during which a psychologist describes the common practice he calls “negativity bias.” Dr. Rick Hanson uses this term to highlight people’s tendencies, during their initial interaction with another person, to notice others’ bad qualities rather than their good ones. Hanson says we usually first identify the things that worry or annoy us, or that make us critical.
Jesus seems to have the opposite of this “negativity bias.” Jesus continually sees the good in people, even when that good is overlooked by others.
Jesus sees the short, unpopular, greedy tax collector up in the tree and invites him to dinner. Jesus sees the ostracized woman caught in the act of adultery and speaks life to her. Jesus sees the prostitute, the religious elite, the leper, the thief, the demon-possessed man, and He values them. He notices them, He takes the time to interact with them, and He sees the good in them.
Our culture may have a way of delineating “good people” from “bad people,” but Jesus sees value and worth in all of us.
In a world of “negativity bias,” how do we change what we see to reflect what Jesus sees?
I never saw the college student that encouraged my basketball skills again, and though I never developed into a pro player, I still love playing basketball.
There are unseen ripples that spread far and wide when we see value and abilities in others – especially when we acknowledge and encourage others openly. May each of us see others like Jesus does, and may we encourage and value more people this week than we did the last.
Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. Romans 15:7