I can’t help it – it’s my upbringing, my situation, my biology, my____.
Psychologists call this the fundamental attribution error.
For example, if we see a stranger trip, they must be clumsy or absentminded. But if we trip, well there must be something on the floor, or stuck to our shoe. We automatically look back at the ground with a wrinkled brow.
Even if there is nothing there, we'll sometimes pretend there was!
When we ignore the speed limit, it’s because we seriously need to get somewhere quick – like to work on time or we’ll be in trouble. We’re not really “speeders,” it’s just that our circumstances necessitate it today (and every time we’re running late).
But when another car speeds past us, weaving through traffic, it’s because they are irresponsible - and we hope they get pulled over.
I'm not really a speeder, I'm not really a liar, I'm not really lazy, I'm not really a cheater, it's just that ...
It’s always totally “their bad” but it’s never quite fully “our bad.” It doesn’t take much pondering to figure out why this is – we want to excuse our behavior. To not have to examine it, change it or feel bad about it.
Yet we do feel bad about it. Every so often – maybe when a romantic partner leaves us, or at New Year’s, or when convicted by God’s Spirit – we take an honest look at ourselves, and we want to change.
Once we decide to change, we attack our problematic behavior with all the will power we can summons. Because, we assume, that is what it takes to change.
I wonder if this isn't another kind of fundamental attribution error.
Biblically speaking, is it our willpower that changes us? Christ said He can do nothing apart from the Father. And, Christ said, we can do nothing apart from Him. ( see John 15:5)
So, where does our strength come from? Regret-fulled willpower, or Spirit-fueled transformation? Which one do you tend to rely on?