Social Cost of Changing Our Mind

Not too long ago I was told by a former congregation member that I was filled with Satan and that I was the reason why people leave Christianity. Why? Because of the views I was expressing on social media.

Friends—changing our mind about something is hard.

It’s hard for all sorts of internal reasons. Do we have enough information? Is the information from a reputable source? Does it fit in with other things we know about the topic?

But we can’t forget external reasons as well. If we change our mind on a topic, we could lose our friends. Or our family. Or our job. There are all kinds of external pressures on us that keep us from thinking about things in any sort of rational, unbiased ways. Changing our mind can cost us a lot, both cognitively and socially.

We need to remember this for two reasons.

First, we should be empathetic to those whom we disagree with, for those whom we just don’t understand why they won’t change their minds, despite all the evidence in front of them.

“Why can’t people just admit that Trump lost the election?” Because admitting that might mean that your family and friends now see you as a traitor to the country, a filthy liberal, abandoning your faith.

“Why can’t pastors just say that LGBTQ+ people fully belong in the church?” Because doing so might mean they lose their job and their livelihood, something they’d rather not put their family through.

“Why can’t white people admit that they have participated in and benefited from systemic racism?” Because your friends and family might call you a racist, Marxist, self-hating lib and no longer invite you over for dinner because your views are satanic.

“Why can’t people just wear a mask?” Because, if no one else around you is, you are going to be stared at like you’re a sex offender on a swing set. You might be told you’re a coward, living in fear, with no faith in God.

Do these external pressures change whether the above ideas are right? Of course not. Do they change the fact that we should stand up for what’s right, even when it’s unpopular? No. But we should also be smart enough to realize that that’s all easier said than done.

Which leads to the second reason to keep this all in mind.

There are plenty of external pressures that keep us from changing our minds, even when we ought to. Even when we have all the evidence in front of us.

Maybe our paychecks depend on us believing what we believe. Maybe our social circles will shun us if we state something that’s out of the norm. Maybe our friends of family will call our views not just misinformed, but evil, demonic, and destructive.

Holding a minority view—and stating it out loud—is hard work and, at times, a dangerous business. Therefore, we should be willing to question our own views and the internal and external motivations we have for keeping those views.

“Do I hold this belief because I’ve come to it honestly? Or because it's the most socially inexpensive thing for me to believe right now?”

“Do I hold this belief because I know that there’s no other possible answer; or because I feel threatened that other possible answers might rock my world?”

What was the last thing you changed your mind about?