If you were a lizard sunning yourself on a rock and you noted a shadow pass over you might decide to either freeze and hope you aren’t discovered, or break for the nearest crack hoping to escape the danger that flew above you. Such instant reactions serve lizards well, protecting them from danger of flying birds. However when the shadow is a passing bicyclist on the trail or branch of a tree swaying in the wind, the lizard runs for nothing.
While this is an overly simplified explanation, perhaps this can be a helpful and inform us about some of our own reactivity. In our brains we have the same center of control to protect us from danger. It isn’t a very refined system, in fact for us… it makes us jump when we see a bit of rope on the ground, thinking “snake”. It can make us react to a spot on the floor, thinking “spider”. We see shapes, rough outlines and react. For lizards, it saves lives. For us, it makes us feel foolish often.
Unfortunately, it is a powerful “instinct”, and puts us in all kinds of trouble. Once we “react” we shutdown higher responses, like analytical thinking and just have a fear response. I’ve been thinking about how this impacts a number of things in our world.
In our political process there is little higher reasoning, in political debates information is passed in 2 minute sound bites. We hear “a shadow” pass over us and react. Certain phrases are dropped to tease that instinct and we are sprinting to the crack in the rock. We might hear “missing emails” or “gun control” or “abortion” or any number of other phrases and our instincts take over, without listening for finer details or clarification.
We do the same thing religiously. We hear phrases and our brains shutdown and instinct takes over. “Change agents” or “contemporary worship” or “transgendered” or “abortion” all sound bites that cause us to run to the crack in the rock where we think we will be safe. Our reasoning brain never gets the information because the lower brain takes over causing us to run or freeze.
So how do we get passed the instinct where we can reason together? Perhaps some ancient advise would be helpful for us… quick to hear, slow to sleep, slow to anger. Slowing the process is crucial to the reasoning process. We have to wait out that initial reactivity and continue to listen. Discernment doesn’t take place with a sound bite and understanding is not a process that takes place without a second look at the origins of shadows.
So, be it politics, religion, or relationships between husband and wives… don’t react to the sound bites, the familiar phrases that make your blood boil. Maintain your cool, manage your fears and stay out of the cracks in the rocks. It doesn’t help you learn the finer points that allow you to make more informed decisions. It may not change your position, but at least you have the chance to understand the perspective of the opposing view.