Contrary to U2’s famous song, I think you will find EXACTLY what you’re looking for.
The tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions is known in Psychology as “confirmation bias.” It is the type of selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and look for what confirms one’s beliefs, while simultaneously ignoring or undervaluing the relevance of what contradicts them. We like to imagine that our beliefs are rational, logical, and objective. But, they are often based on paying attention only to the information that upholds our ideas while ignoring the information that challenges them. We read about, hear and see data and facts about any given topic but come to different conclusions because of our own preconceived ideas. We see this playing itself out all the time in various political, theological, and cultural arenas. But, the truth is confirmation bias even manifests itself within the minutia of our everyday relationships.
One of the biggest challenges in many marriages is that we are often looking through bad lenses. Much like a cheap pair of sunglasses causes us to see the whole world through a warped tint, the lenses we wear, the perceptions we have, skew and distort truth. If your perception is that your mate is uncaring or selfish then everything they say and do will be filtered through that lens. Suddenly your perceptions will be reinforced by what you see. The dirty socks they left on the floor in the room you just cleaned becomes “They don’t care about me!” when filtered through your lens. Soon it seems that everything they do confirms your previously held beliefs. So even though your spouse took out the trash, cleaned your car, and mowed the lawn, it’s the dirty socks that stand out and substantiates your view. If you’re not careful you can become fixated on this bad perception and it can completely destroy your relationship.
But, the flip side is also true. If your lens is that your spouse is caring and attentive with a servant’s heart, you will see all the things they do that reinforce that belief. Simultaneously you will also subconsciously minimize the things that detract from that perspective. It all depends on which lenses you are wearing.
This is true of all relationships, by the way. We have lenses through which we view our bosses, our employees, our co-workers, our team-mates, our pastors, our children, and our parents. In every case our preconceived ideas about that person will almost always be confirmed by what we see and hear. You will find what you’re looking for.
Maybe Jesus meant something like this when He said, “The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, you are full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness” (Lk. 11:34).
The good news is your perspective CAN change. We need to ask Holy Spirit to give us corrective lenses to replace our cheap, warped sunglasses. Jesus declared, “The Spirit of the Lord … has chosen me to bring … recovery of sight to the blind” (Luke 4:18). We are often blind to the truth. Sometimes it’s as simple as CHOOSING to see the good. Most of the time it’s right there in front of us, we just haven’t seen it.
So, I challenge you to a treasure hunt. I challenge you to try to catch your spouse, your child, your co-worker, your boss, doing something good, every day. Make a note of it. Acknowledge it. Tell them you noticed. Affirm and appreciate them. Look for the times when they are helpful, caring, or self-sacrificing. I’m convinced that when you intentionally try to see the good in someone else you WILL find it. And many times your relationship will almost instantaneously improve without the other person changing a thing because now it is the negative things that have taken a back seat.