What happens when you can’t find in another person what you’re looking for?
Psychologists tell us something counterintuitive. Rather than assuring us that people first observe, and then decide, psychologists say that people can first decide and then observe. More often than not we work to make what we see fit into what we already believe.
Modern psychologists tell us that the human brain is wired to avoid cognitive dissonance.
This means, for instance, when we are predisposed to hate another person we interpret everything we see about them as confirmation of what we already knew about them. Our minds work to justify our hate by finding reasons to justify it. Martin Luther King, Jr. illustrated this perhaps when he said, “hate cannot drive out hate.”
If, however, when we are predisposed to love someone, our minds will seek a consistency between feelings of love and what we see. What we observe in the person we love will serve only to confirm that love.
William Shakespeare talks about this odd part of love. In “The Merchant of Venice” (1596), the character Jessica says, “ … love is blind and lovers cannot see the pretty follies that themselves commit; for if they could, Cupid himself would blush …”
The Apostle Peter knew this ahead of Shakespeare. Peter writes, “love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). This is his way of saying that when we love someone, our love for them hides their sins. That means that our love overlooks shortcomings, and biblical love will likely not even notice the sins of the objects of our love.
Peter learned this from the proverb, “…it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense” (Prov. 19:11). He also experienced this from Jesus who underestimated Peter’s faults and over-valued his virtues.
The Apostle Paul also knew this about love. He writes, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view … therefore if anyone is in Christ they are a new creation, the old has gone the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:16-17).
Do you see your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ as colossal screw-ups, or as new creations that are pretty lovable?
Christians don’t overlook all sin, some sins lead to death, but when we are in Jesus we are rewired to be the most gracious and forgiving, the slowest of all people to spot a fault in a fellow Christian — but the quickest to spot something lovable.
If you resonate with U2’s Bono and join in their chorus, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for,” both modern psychology and inspired Scripture might challenge you on this point.
What we see in others is probably exactly what we are looking for. So, my take on all this: love before you look.
Now that’s something to Celebrate!