Since the Fall, we have struggled not only with the content of our thoughts but the process as well. Yes, even the very way we size up situations and apply knowledge and experience to them is tainted by sin. In other words, we are constantly plagued by fallacies and cognitive distortions. Let’s look at three distortions that are interrelated — minimizing, maximizing, and disqualifying.
Minimizing is downplaying the positives.
It may be through comparing it to someone else’s positives. It may be through finding the negatives. Maybe something like this. Someone compliments your dessert. “Oh, I just threw it together.” You get a good grade. “Oh, the test was probably just easy.” You reach a goal. “Oh, I shouldn’t have taken so long to get here.” Or “I set the bar too low.” Or “Other people did it better than I did.”
Minimizing manifests in our spiritual life as failing to see and appreciate the good things God has done and is doing. It fails to give Him the glory due His name. Further, it is a slander to God to accuse Him of being anything less than good or to attribute anything less than perfection to His motives and actions.
Maximizing is inflating the negatives.
The flip side of minimizing is maximizing. It is doomsaying. It is finding the worst in everything, expecting the worst outcomes, or representing situations worse than they really are. “Now everything is ruined.” “This is the worst day ever.” Or “I messed everything up.” Or “I am a complete failure.” It’s a disingenuous representation of the circumstances.
This translates as a lack of faith. We see worst-case scenarios that are beyond God’s intervention. We believe God won’t answer our prayers or He won’t step in when we need Him to. It discounts His goodness and His sovereignty.
Disqualifying is acknowledging the positives but discounting them.
It is finding the black cloud around every silver lining. You can hear it in a “yes, but.” Sure, God saved us, but He has other, more important children. Or He saved me, but He can’t or won’t use me. Yes, God calls us His own, but He says that to all believers. He has prepared a home for us in eternity, but right now, He makes us struggle. He answers our prayers, but usually not the way you want. His presence never leaves us, but you never feel it.
It’s no surprise that it manifests in our spiritual life as unthankfulness. We are perpetually dissatisfied as we find something wrong inside every blessing. It also leads to us putting words in God’s mouth and attributing false motives to His actions. That kind of brazen presumption is a form of blasphemy.
How do we combat these distortions?
All of these distortions are rooted in pride, in a desire to have others pay attention to us, even if it’s negative attention. It is an attempt to manipulate someone else’s emotions to elicit a desired response. Basically, we want people to acknowledge us and do what we want.
So the first step is to recognize these thought patterns. Be bold enough to ask God to search out your heart and mind and reveal their contents. (Psalm 139:23-24).
The second step is to repent. All of the ways these distortions express themselves are sinful.
The third step is to replace the distortions with the truth. Check Ephesians 2:1-10 to get a concise description of what God has done for us in Christ. We were incurably depraved. Jesus did all the work. We receive all the spiritual blessings because of His grace. His love for us is amazing. There’s no room for maximizing or minimizing.
Yes, bad things happen. But good things also happen. And all things come from the hand of a sovereign God who loves us beyond our understanding. Adopt Job’s philosophy: “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)
All of the things, positive and negative of all degrees are used by God to make us more like Christ. See the ultimate goal rather than disqualify what God is doing. Mary put it very simply: [F]or he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. Luke 1:49
Just so we’re clear, I’m not a counselor. I read, research, and study, and I have some life experience. I am not attempting to diagnose anything, but rather help us evaluate how we think based on Scripture.