When someone asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was He answered, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment (Mark 12:29-30). As believers, we get that. Over the next several posts, I want to focus on the mind part. Today, we’ll do kind of a lengthy introduction and lay the foundation. You see, 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.
What’s a fallacy?
A fallacy is a mistaken belief we hold that’s based on faulty logic. Here’s a dumb example. Cats have four legs. Winnie has four legs. Therefore, Winnie is a cat. The conclusion seems to follow, right? Well, Winnie is my dog, my four-legged non-cat dog. The conclusion was built on some faulty premises. Yes, cats have four legs, but so do a lot of other critters. The REALITY is, Winnie is a dog. (See a picture of Winnie.)
Let me get a little more personal. I have failed many times. God doesn’t use people who fail. Therefore, God can’t use me. Again, while that seems to follow, the premises are so faulty. So faulty. Everyone fails. If God is going to use any people, His only options are people who fail. God does in fact use people who have failed. Therefore, He most certainly can use you.
Distortions are much trickier to root out. We reinforce these unfounded, irrational ideas — almost always about ourselves, overwhelmingly negative –so often that they become automatic. They are our go-to responses.
For example, let’s say one of my students scores a ninety-five on a chemistry test. Her response is, “Well, the test was probably just easy. I bet everyone else got A’s too.” That’s messed up. You know it and I know it. Chemistry isn’t easy. Clearly, she scored well because she studied and she’s smart enough to understand the material.
The insidious thing about cognitive distortions is that we are so comfortable with them we no longer see the irrationality of our thinking. Usually, a close confidant has to point out the distortions. Sometimes, we will fight and defend our distortion when someone calls us on it.
And we often don’t realize we can change those deeply held distortions. We just need a dose of truth.
The source of truth
For believers, everything goes back to the Word of God. Applying the truth of what God says about Himself and about us is the only way we can realign the fallacies and distortions we hang on to. When we live in the light God’s word, we can exchange those lies for truth.
So over the next few weeks, we’re going to look at some fallacies and distortions and apply a healthy dose of truth to them, “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” (2 Corinthians 10:5).